Martha

Chocolate Truffles Cake

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This is inspired from one of Martha’s wedding cakes.  I’m not sure what her recipe is, but I just love the concept of it — it’s a cake encased in truffles!  That has got to be good!  Now this is for that birthday party that I was talking about a while ago; it went with the raspberry cupcakes.  And since I made extra raspberry buttercream for the cupcakes, I used that to fill the cake.  So because it was for a party, I couldn’t cut it open to take a picture of a cross-section.  You could just use more ganache for a filling, or whatever buttercream you like.  Maybe a nice orange curd would be good.  Might be a good Halloween cake with the colors.

Like I mentioned before, this party was supposed to be pink and purple.  So I rolled some of the truffles in some purple dragées to keep in the theme.  This made 2 tall 6″ cakes.  I split the cakes in half so there’s four layers to it.  They did rise in the middle, but they settled after cooling.  Be aware that this is one of my more involved cakes.  Not that it’s difficult; it just has a lot of steps.  Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. Dutch process cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray two 6 inch cake pans with cooking spray.  Line with parchment rounds; spray the rounds as well.  Sift together the dry ingredients twice (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).  Set aside.  Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter for about 1 – 2 minutes.  Gradually adding the sugar, mix for about 3 – 5 minutes until fluffy.  Add the cocoa powder and mix for another minute.

3.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition (scrape down the sides, too!).  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

4.  On low, gradually add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of the water.  Scrape the sides and mix evenly.

5.  Pour half the mixture into each pan.  Bake for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool the cakes in the pans for about 15 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks.

For the ganache frosting:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 c. confectioners sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla

1.  Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a double boiler.  You could just put it in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time since tempering the chocolate is not as important.  After completely melted, set aside.

2.  In another bowl, beat the butter until creamy for about a minute or so.  Gradually add in the sugar, mixing well to combine.  Beat in the vanilla and the melted chocolate.  Mix until smooth and well combined.  Set aside.

For the truffles:

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 lb. dark chocolate, chopped
  • cocoa powder
  • dutch process cocoa powder
  • purple dragée

1.  Place chocolate in medium-sized heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Once the cream starts to boil, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let sit for about 5-7 minutes and stir to combine.  Cool in the refrigerator for around 30 minutes, until set.

2.  Using a small ice cream scoop, form balls around 1 1/2 in. wide.  Roll the truffles in either of the cocoa powders or the dragée.  Place in the refrigerator to harden for about 10 minutes.  Cut each truffle in half, and place back in the refrigerator until needed.

Assemble the cake:

1.  After cooling, cut out a small notch or sliver out of the sides of the cakes to act as a marker.  That way you can match up the marks when assembling the cake.  Split the cakes in half lengthwise so that you will have four even layers.

2.  Place a small dab of frosting on top of a cake round (or a serving dish) and place the bottom layer of one of the cakes.  Line the edges of the round with strips of parchment that are tucked underneath the edges of the cake.

3.  Spread about 1/2 c. of the frosting on the bottom layer and smooth out almost to the edge.  Top with the top layer of that cake, lining up the notches on the side.  Smooth out another 1/2 c. of the frosting on top.  Repeat with the other two layers.

4.  Frost the sides of the cake starting with the top and bringing the frosting down to smooth out the sides.  Smooth out the top.

5.  With a small palette knife or the back of a small spoon, place a dab of frosting on the back of a truffle half and attach it to the cake.  Repeat until the sides of the cake are covered in truffles.  You could try to make a fancy pattern here, but I just stuck with columns of the different truffles in random order.

Notes — As I mentioned earlier, the filling for the cake that I made was a raspberry buttercream, so if you just use the ganache frosting, you’ll probably need a double batch, depending on how much you use in between the layers. . . you could just make things easier on your self and use store-bought truffles, or maybe some Baci chocolates. . . I did (begrudgingly) eventually put some purple sugar flowers on top of the cake since those were part of the party theme.  I prefer to just have a smooth top of the cake. . . although I prefer the more irregular shapes of truffles, you could make perfectly round truffles for this.  That might be appropriate for a more formal event.  But they are called truffles because, after you roll them around in the cocoa, they look like those things that you pull out of the ground!

Fresh Raspberry Cupcakes

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So I had to make some cupcakes for a birthday party and I thought to myself, “Waterlily, what’s fresh today?”  I don’t refer to myself as “Waterlily” like Blanche Devereaux; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.  Raspberries was the answer!  Seemed like a nice safe thing to do since my “weirder” concoctions don’t always go over so well (but I still love my Lavender Cupcakes with a Honey Buttercream which really isn’t too weird. . . not like some of my other ones).  Plus the colors of the party are supposed to be pink and purple (at least, that’s what I was told but wasn’t exactly true) and raspberries fit the bill nicely!

I do have a confession though — the raspberries weren’t quite freshalicious.  They were bought the week before I needed them (at the local farmers market) and I wasn’t quite sure that they would make it.  So I froze them!  Which was fine since they were being baked in the oven anyway.  They would have been freshalicious if I had a chance to go to the mid-week farmers market.  The ones on top were very fresh, of course.

The inspiration for this is from Martha of course and her strawberry cupcakes.  It seems if you ever need some gold standard for something, it never hurts to turn to Martha.  I did change some stuff around though.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. raspberries, coarsely chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cupcake / muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and gradually add your sugar.  Mix well for about 5 minutes.  Now add your eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each addition.  Then, mix in the vanilla.

3.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder.  Now add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with 1/2 of the milk.  Mix until just combined.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the raspberries.

4.  Fill cups about 2/3 full with the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes until nicely golden.  Cool on racks.

For the buttercream:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 sticks of butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1 c. raspberry preserves

1.  Over a water bath, mix the egg whites and sugar until warm (about 140 degrees F) and the sugar has dissolved.

2.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer and whip on high until it reaches soft peaks.  Add the cream of tartar and salt and mix on high for about 5 minutes until you get stiff peaks and the meringue has a nice sheen.

3.  Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the butter one piece at a time, making sure to combine well.  The buttercream will probably lose a little bit of its volume.

4.  With the mixer on low, add your preserves and whisk to combine.

Notes — I had put in some fresh raspberries into the buttercream at first, but it did cause some problems.  They separated too easily and may have had something to do with the buttercream breaking a little bit.  But with a little extra whisking, everything came together.  Thankfully I don’t have to whisk everything by hand anymore (which I still highly recommend to any aspiring baker). . . It’s best to use the buttercream immediately but it can be refrigerated.  Just let it come to room temp before you use it.

Gougere (aka Cheezy Poofs)

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Happy Bastille Day!  So to celebrate I thought I’d make some Gougere.  That’s just French for “cheese puffs”.  Well, probably not, but that’s what they are.  But I was thinking one day about making certain sweet items more savory.  Cream puffs came to mind, so I was thinking about what would be a way to make them less sweet.  And — Bam! — cheese would work.

After doing some digging, it turns out I’m not all that much of  an innovator.  Looks like the French did this like millions of years ago.  Maybe I should read more French cookbooks.  This recipe basically follows your simple pate-a-choux recipe which is essentially a 1-1-1-4 combination.  That is 1 stick of butter, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of flour, and 4 eggs.  Plus any salt, pepper, and sugar you might add.  This makes about 40, depending on how big you make them.

Anyhoo, here’s what you need:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. grated Gruyère
  • 1/2 c. grated cheddar
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 T. fresh herbs
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Make an egg wash by mixing together one egg and 1 T. heavy cream; set aside.  Bring 1 c. water, the salt, sugar, and butter to a boil in a saucepan.  Cook until butter is melted.  Add in the flour all at once and stir to combine.

2.  Cook the flour combination for about 5 minutes, until there is a film covering the bottom of the pan.  Transfer to a bowl.

3.  Add the cheeses to the mixture and mix well.  One at a time, add 4 eggs, mixing after each addition.  Now add the herbs and black pepper and incorporate.

4.  Using a piping bag, pipe out 1 – 2 inch rounds onto a lined baking sheet.  If needed, dip your finger into a bowl of water and smooth out the tops.  Brush the puffs with the egg wash and top with a little cheese if you have any leftover.

5.  Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes until golden and puffed.  Serve immediately.

Notes — A couple of things:  (1) Now I was watching a clip on-line from Martha and they said that you could bake these and freeze them.  I certainly hope that’s the case since I will have a lot leftover.  I have frozen some pies before with no problems so I’m guessing it should work out fine.  (2) Also, you can just drop the puffs if you don’t want to pipe them out.  Just smooth out the tops to get a nice uniform shape.  (3) You can substitute a variety of cheeses, but I’d figure you want some kind of good melting cheese at least.  I wonder what using a Stilton would be like.

Caipirinha Limeade

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I was looking around for another nice summery drink and I stumbled upon this recipe on Martha’s website (hopefully we all know which Martha I’m talking about).  What I was looking for was a recipe that could help me use up my cachaca that wasn’t just a caipirinha.  In the regular caipirinha recipe, you just muddle the lime in some sugar and pour in the booze.  This recipe is still close, but it does amp up the lime.

Now for those who may not know, cachaca is a liquor that is made from sugar cane.  It is different from rum in that it is made directly from the juice, whereas rum is usually made from molasses.

For some reason or another, I thought that this recipe would make like a gallon of the limeade.  Granted I did read the recipe and somehow I figured out 5 1/2 cups of liquid would be more than enough to fill my pitcher.  Maybe I’ll just put in lots of ice.  I could double up the recipe, but juicing another 16 limes is too much of a task right now!

My next mission is to find several recipes that can use up my Pisco!

Here’s what you need:

  • 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each
  • 2 c. plus 2 T. superfine sugar
  • 2 c. fresh lime juice, strained
  • 1 1/2 c. cachaca

Muddle the limes and the sugar in a pitcher or container with a wooden spoon.  Add the lime juice and mix to dissolve the sugar.  Add the cachaca and stir.  According to Martha, you can keep this in the refrigerator up to three days.  For the leftovers, I strained out the limes and plan on keep it in the fridge until it’s gone.  I’m sure it will be fine, but I’m not 100% sure how the acid from the lime juice will alter the flavor of the cachaca over time.

Yolks, Yolks, and more Yolks. . . plus an Egg Custard and Nutmeg tart

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So I’ve been working on making some cupcakes for the past couple of days (maybe I’ll post something on that later).  What I originally planned to use with those cupcakes was a nice swiss meringue buttercream.  I was going to divide the basic batch in half or maybe thirds, and then tint and flavor them accordingly.  And since it’s a meringue, that meant just using the egg whites.

Fast forward to the part when you add the butter, and guess what happened next.  Well, the minute I added the butter, everything just deflated.  I thought, “That’s weird.  It’s not like I’ve never made this before.”  So fast forward to take two and lo and behold, the same thing happened.  That meant a change of plans.  It also meant that I had 26 egg yolks that were just kinda hanging out in the refrigerator (10 for each batch of buttercream, plus 6 from a batch of 7-minute frosting that I made as a replacement).

Now what do you do with that many egg yolks?  I didn’t have the foggiest idea.  The only thing that I could come up with was making maybe a gallon of lemon curd which wasn’t the best solution (in my opinion).  So after doing some searching, I came across a recipe for a Classic Egg Custard Pie with Lots of Nutmeg on Martha Stewart’s website.  It looks fairly simple, plus it uses 12 egg yolks!  Of course, I’ll still need to make a lemon curd anyway.  Or maybe a lime curd.

A couple of caveats — I didn’t have the correct pan so I had to improvise.  Since I didn’t have the correct pan, I had lots of extra filling.  So I just decided to have a couple of small baking dishes (which I use for baked eggs — I’ll post on that later) and an old ramekin act as stand-ins without crusts.  I also didn’t bother with the “sweet pastry dough” that was listed in the ingredient list.  I already had some pate brisee in the freezer so I just used that.  Plus, I didn’t have a vanilla bean hanging around, but I did have some vanilla extract. . .  Also, I didn’t have enough cream so I added a little roux to the mix.  Oh yeah, and some of the measurements could be a little off cuz some of the yolks had broken so there might be a little bit more in what I made.  Oops.  Wow — that’s lots of changes.  And I forgot; I don’t have arrowroot, so I used corn starch.

Here’s you’ll need for my version (but check out Martha’s at the link I listed earlier):

  • all-purpose flour for dusting
  • 1/2 pate brisee recipe (check out my earlier post)
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 1 t. flour
  • 1 t. butter
  • 12 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg, plus more for dusting
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1.   Preheat oven to 350.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about a 1/8 inch thick round.  Place in a 9″ tart pan that was lined with parchment on the bottom.  Trim off excess crust (save the trimmings — form them into a ball and put them in the fridge or freezer).  Blind bake for 12 minutes, remove pie weights (or rice or beans) and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown.  Place pan on a wire rack to cool.

2.  In a medium sauce pan, melt the 1 t. of butter with the 1 t. of flour.  Cook for about a minutes on medium and gradually add the milk while stirring to combine.  Add the cream and vanilla and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes.

3.  Whisk together yolks and granulated sugar in a large bowl until pale and thick, about 2 minutes.  While still whisking, add warm cream mixture gradually.  Add the cornstarch and nutmeg and whisk until smooth.  Pour through a mesh strainer into the crust.

4.  Bake until edges of filling are set but center is still slightly wobbly, about 40 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).  Before serving, unmold, sprinkle with nutmeg, and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

My afternoon with a Beekman

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I had the good fortune of being able to attend a reading by author Josh Kilmer-Purcell at Schuler’s books in Lansing yesterday.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Josh, both he and his partner Brent Ridge, MD are the subject of the reality documentary on Planet Green called The Fabulous Beekman Boys.  It details the transition and struggles that two urbanites go through trying to develop a thriving business out of their farm called the Beekman.  They have a whole slew of artisanal products, including goat milk soaps (which are fabulous, of course!) and cheeses made with the help of the goats on the farm.  The products are available on their Beekman 1802 website, but according to Josh, they are out of the Blaak cheese and won’t have any more until June-ish so get on the wait list now!

The Spartan alum and ex-drag queen has authored a couple of books, two of which have been on the best-seller list.  At Schuler’s, he did a reading from his most recent book The Bucolic Plague (here’s a link to the an online review from the New York Times) and he talked about a dinner that he and his partner Brent had with Martha Stewart (Dr. Brent was VP of Martha Stewart Healthy Living before the Beekman needed some full time attention).  You’ll have to buy the book in order the get the whole story.  But it was nice to hear about it straight from Josh, well maybe not straight

He was so genuine and personable, like someone you’d known for years.  I’m sure if we’d met while he was at Michigan State we would have been best friends!  Of course, I was there long after he was gone; I think he said he graduated in ’91 whilst I graduated in around 2000 .  Always with the poor timing. . .  Anyhoo, I’m so glad that I got a chance to be there.  And the turnout was great given that there was only a week or so to plan the event.  I just wish that I could have remembered all the questions that I had to ask.  I did happen to remember them on the drive home, and came up with a couple of new ones.  Again with the poor timing. . .  But, thanks to Josh for coming back to the E.L. and sharing a little bit of yourself with us.  And thanks for the fabulous model walking.