Friday, 17 February 2012

Beef Wellington Appetizers

Me and Chris decided to stay home for valentine's day and make ourselves a romantic dinner. Since I love tackling those fancy dishes, I thought I could handle it. I wanted to make an entree sized beef wellington but Chris wanted to go all out and have tuna steak, so I had to make a tiny adjustment and make the beef into appetizers.

I wanted to be all fancy so I skipped my local super market and went to a butcher instead. It was an amazing piece of meat. I wanted tenderloin but he gave me a piece of thick flank. It tasted amazing nonetheless because it was so fresh.

Cut the beef into inch pieces. I measured it against my mini muffin tin because that's what I'm going to be baking it in. Season the pieces with salt and pepper, and brown them in a hot pan with some vegetable oil. I've had it with trying to fry things using olive oil, they don't get brown and the fire alarm goes screaming.

You want to sear it quickly so that the sides get brown but the inside is still rare. If you cook it too much at this point then it will over cook in the oven. That's Chris picking at the meat after they've been browned. "Oh look, this one is not a perfect square, can I eat it?"

Mean while, prepare the mushroom mixture. Finely chop 8 oz of cremini mushrooms and half an onion. Brown them in olive oil until they've gave up most of the moisture.

Using the same technique as the my tuna phyllo cups, brush the phyllo pastry with butter then layer another piece on top. Repeat with a third piece. Push them into the mini muffin pans.
Fill each cup with a little bit of the mushroom mixture and top it off with a piece of beef.

Brush the phyllo with a bit more butter and pinch the top together.

Bake in a 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes or until it gets golden brown.

I'll be posting the tuna steak in about a week. Going on a cruise tomorrow morning and won't get access to the internet for a while. Stay tuned for pictures of amazing cruise food!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Love Birds

Same cupcake and frosting as before, just much cuter this time. These are supposed to be love birds but they do look like owls. I saw a instruction video on youtube and the youtuber got the idea from another blog. The reason they are owls is because the blogger used a cute punch line "Owl always love you". For each bird you'll need 2 oreo cookies, 2 smarties / m&ms, a heart shape sprinkle for the peak, and 2 pink candy corns for the tails.

Frost the cupcake with a butter knife. It's easier for the oreos to stay on if the frosting is really thick. Place on the oreo cookies towards the upper side of the cupcake. Then do a dot of frosting on the oreo cookie,towards the center, so you can glue on the smarties. Then place the candy corns just above the cookies in the center, and the sprinkle just below the cookies.

Box of Chocolate, Cupcakes

We are approaching that day! Here is a very cute recipe idea that you could do for your valentine. These are my chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

I've seen this done many times on the internet, and I'm pretty sure the idea originated from "hello cupcakes". Don't take my word for it though, I may have no idea what I'm talking about.

So very simple, Take a mini cupcake and frost it with a butter knife or a 9-in offset spatula (always wanted to buy one of those  but I'm saving money). Melt some white chocolate and dig around for any colorful candy that you may have on hand. I used heart shaped sprinkles, candy corn, edible silver balls, and white chocolate melting wafers.

There's no limit to what you can do with this so just play around with patterns and see where it takes you. If I mess up a pattern I'd just remove the frosting and start over. The problem I found with candy corn is that it soaks up all the moisture in the frosting and bleeds color all over your finger when you try to pick it up. I suggest either putting them on right before you serve or try a different candy.

I love that these are bite sized because I don't feel too guilty about eating them. On the other hand, I'd eat 10 of them without realizing it until I see a bunch of wrappers in front of me.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dark Chocolate Frosting

I didn't want to include too many components in my chocolate cupcake post so I'm doing a separate one for the frosting. I started with some butter and chocolate and adjusted the recipe as a went. Here is a estimate of what I used but use your own judgement based on how chocolaty and sweet you like yours.

Oh and I want to stress the fact of using unsalted butter. I've gotten so used to baking with salted butter that it didn't occur to me it might be a problem. I had to cover up the saltiness with a lot more sugar and chocolate.

2 sticks of butter
2 tbsps of espresso powder
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/4 cup of hot water
8 oz of dark chocolate
1 cup of icing sugar

Chop the chocolate finely and melt it in the microwave. Add the water, cocoa and espresso to the chocolate and beat until smooth. Don't worry about the chocolate seizing up. As Alton Brown put it, if you have enough liquid to dissolve the chocolate then you won't have a problem. 

Beat the butter until it turns a white color and resembles the looks and texture of whipped cream.

Add the Chocolate mixture to the whipped cream.

At first I only used 2 tbsps of cocoa powder and about 5 oz of dark chocolate. I noticed that I didn't have enough and added more. Hence the new measurements that I've given above.

Put it into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe onto the cupcakes. I just bought this star tip last week and it's probably one of my best purchases.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

As promised, I've finally gotten around to posting these dark chocolate espresso cupcakes. When most recipes call for espresso, they assure you not to worry because the cupcakes won't taste like coffee at all and it's only gonna enhance the chocolate flavour. I'm personally a huge fan of coffee, so I like to make the espresso flavour identifiable among all the chocolaty-ness.

I found a devil's food cupcake in Martha Stewart's "Cupcakes". The instructions seem very odd to me because it's not the typical way that I used to make cupcakes. I used it as a guideline and made some changes based on the ingredients I had on hand. I haven't tried out enough recipes from the book to say if it's good or bad, but so far I'm not blown away.

The changes I made was using coffee instead of hot water to dissolve the cocoa powder. I also used Greek yogurt and milk instead of sour cream. Oh and since I use salted butter, I omitted the salt. One thing I've learnt, the hard way, is that salted butter is great in baked cakes and such but never in frosting.

3/4 cup of cocoa powder
3/4 cup of very strong coffee
3 cups of flour
1 tsp of baking soda
1tsp of baking powder
3 sticks of salted butter
2 1/4 cups of sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 of Greek yogurt

Line your muffin tins and set them aside. I got about 20 large cupcakes and 24 small ones from this batch. Chris bought me these cute valentine's day cupcake liners from Bulkbarn and I'm putting them to good use :)

Whisk the cocoa powder into the coffee to form a shiny chocolate mixture.

Combine the sugar and the butter in a pot and melt it on the stove. I was lazy so I tried to do it in the microwave. The sugar totally did not melt and I didn't see much point in melting the butter and sugar in the first place. After they've melted, you are supposed to beat them with a mixer until it's cooled down. It only took about 7 minutes but I thought it was a complete waste of time. Why not just cream the butter and sugar like normal people do? 

While the butter was cooling, I sifted together my dry ingredients over a piece of parchment paper. I didn't want any lumps so it's easier to incorporate later without over mixing. 

After the butter has cooled, Beat in the four eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is pale yellow and frothy. Combine it with the chocolate and coffee mixture.

Mix in the flour and the Greek yogurt/milk, alternating between 2 additions. Mix until the flour is just incorporated.

Bake the regular sized cupcakes for 18 minutes and the mini ones for 13 in a 350 degrees oven.

Here is a picture of the cupcake liners. I thought they were the cutest thing ever.

Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature and frost with chocolate buttercream frosting. I decorated this one with sprinkles and used the 10 strawberries I had on the other ones. These were a hit at modeling practice :)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries- Valentine's Themed

I guess you could always call it "wedding themed", but since Valentine's day is coming up, it only makes since this way. Totally over glorified, it's not as hard as it looks. I dipped about 10 of them and used them on chocolate cupcakes. It was sorta my break from all the excel sheets I've been working on for a international finance course. Try juggling  500 different weekly "annual" rates in 3 different currencies. Does that even sound sane?

Anyways, the cupcakes were requested by girls from Vogue, a charity fashion show at Queen's. That will be another post...soon I hope.

I did 10 strawberries but I'm going to say 12 since it's a better number if you are planning to decorate cupcakes with them.

12 strawberries
8 oz of white chocolate
1 tbsp butter
6 oz of dark chocolate (70-75%)
2 tsp butter

Wash and dry the strawberries. 
Melt the chocolates with butter in relatively deep bowls.

To dip the tuxedos, dip the strawberries all the way around, covering all sides with a straight line at the top.

To dip the bride, do it side to side so you have a V-shape down the middle.

Once you have them all covered, let them dry a little before dipping in the dark chocolate. You may find that some the strawberries have the reds peaking through the white chocolate. I just double dipped in that case.

Dip the tuxedos again in the dark chocolate in the same side to side motion as the bride dresses.

Draw on little bow ties and buttons with a tooth pick. I used a chopstick but anything pointy would work.

Let them dry at room temperature then refrigerate if you are not going to use them right away.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Caramel Corn - Never Buying Popcorn for Tuesday Movie Nights Again!

I've always always wanted to make caramel corn, but the idea of it seemed daunting to me. Then the other day I saw a recipe for maple syrup popcorn and thought it might be easier to do than caramelizing sugar from scratch. Just so happens that Chris had some friends over and I thought I'd make something they could snack on.

So I proceeded with popping the kernels, only to realize afterwards that I only had 1/2 cup of maple syrup left when the recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups. My only choice was to substitute the other cup with regular much for making life easier.

I never regretted making it though, because I have not yet seen Chris this happy about something I've made before. Usually he'd rate my food 7/10, then there was that one time he said the pulled pork was "sooooo good" and willingly ate leftovers for the next 4 days.

3/4 -1 cup of kernels or 8-10 cups of plain popcorn
3 tbsps of vegetable oil
cayenne pepper
1 stick/ 1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of maple syrup or corn syrup (or add another 1/2 cup of sugar)

Heat the oil in a big pot then toss in the kernels and a big, gigantic pinch of salt. A pinch is usually less than a tsp, so by gigantic I don't mean dump in a quarter cup of salt...more like a 2 tsps. Make sure you have a lid ready and cover the pot when the kernels are popping. They will be flying everywhere.

What used to be a few kernels at the bottom has almost reached the top of the pot! Sprinkle with paprika and cayenne pepper. If it's not salty enough then add a bit more salt, but remember it's supposed to be a sweet recipe.

Combine the butter, maple syrup, and sugar in a pot and bring it to a boil. You want the mixture to reach 275 degrees, called a soft crack stage. At this point the sugar will harden when you drop it into cold water, but it will still bend a little before breaking. I used a thermometer for the temperature, but if you don't have one then you can use the water method. So just get a bowl of water ready and every once in a while, dip a fork into the sugar then dip it into the water.

When it has reached 275 degrees, take it off the heat and pour over the popcorn. Toss it around with a wooden spoon then spread the popcorn onto a baking sheet lined with a sheet of buttered parchment paper. Let it cool then serve. You may need to break apart some of the once that got stuck together during the cooling process. I got a lot of compliments for this although it wasn't hard at all to make. Very, very pleased with this recipe. 

Also, I'm debating on getting another candy thermometer since this one that I'm using seems to be a bit slow in reading the temperature. Another 30 dollar investment in cooking it worth it?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Pepper and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Loin

A roasted pork loin sounds a little too boring for me so I decided to stuff it with something. I just looked in the fridge to see what goes well with pork then put it all together. I didn't have a proper cheese to stuff this with so I just used mozzarella. Ideally I would have used goat cheese or some other kinda of crumbled cheese.

1 Pork Loin
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
8 oz of portabella mushrooms
4 strips of bacon
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes

Roast the peppers in a 450 degrees oven for 35 minutes. Place it directly on the rack instead of putting it on a baking sheet. You could put a baking sheet on the lower rack to catch any drippings.

Put the peppers in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap to trap in the steam. This will help the peeling process.

When the peppers have cooled, peel the skin off and remove the seeds.

In a food processor, dice up the mushrooms and onions finely. Slice the bacon into small pieces. Finely chop the garlic. Add the mushrooms, onion, and bacon into a pan with a big pinch of salt. Saute on high until the onion is translucent and the bacon's almost crisp. Add in the garlic and saute for another minute. Transfer to a bowl.

Prepare the loin by cutting through the meat, about 1/3 of the thickness, leaving 1 inch from the other end. Then cut back through the remaining 2/3 of the meat, leaving another inch from going all the way through. You should have something that opens up like a letter, a 3-fold.

Lay on the pepper, not overlapping the two colors.

Then add the cheese. You don't need too much cheese because most of it will just leak out into the pan during the baking process.

Next add the stuffing. There is a lot of stuffing for this pork loin, but that's why I cut it into thirds instead of half. It wrapped around quite nicely.

Seal the sides with 2 strips of bacon. Secure the roast with strings.

Set your oven to 425 and roast it for 30 minutes. Turn down the oven to 350 and roast for another 20-25 minutes. Your best bet is to check for internal temperature of 155 since different cuts of meat will cook differently.

I thought it turned out very nicely. I made a gravy with the pan drippings and it was very flavourful. The only thing I would change is the cheese that I used. Mozzarella is a very good melting cheese so it found it's way out into the pan.