Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ricotta Almond Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting AKA "Markus's all-time favorite cupcakes"

I found this recipe on the cupcake blog about a year ago, and they were an instant hit. Markus is a huge fan of almond desserts, so I thought it would be a safe bet. I had no idea it would become his all-time favorite, but this is the recipe he asks for on the rare occasions he makes requests. The original recipe called for adding berries (half of the batch with blueberries, half with raspberries), which I did faithfully the first time around with unpleasant results. We didn't like the sogginess of the cooked berries, and Markus decided they distracted too much from the almond goodness of the cake. The texture of these cupcakes is particularly nice, so why muck with greatness? The only warning I offer is that these are a bit high-maintenance to prepare. It is very important that the eggs and butter be room temperature (especially the butter), so plan ahead.

Ricotta Almond Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 12-15 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

4 ounces almonds, slivered/peeled
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 stick butter, unsalted/room temp
4 eggs, large/room temp
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Grind almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very fine. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer.

2. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar to the ground almonds while beating at low speed.

3. Add the ricotta and beat to combine.

4. While beating at low speed, add a tablespoon of butter at a time, waiting for the butter to incorporate until adding the next pat. The butter must be at room temperature or it will not incorporate well.

5. Stop mixer, scrape bowl, then beat at medium for about 2 minutes.

6. Crack eggs into a bowl and break up with a fork. At low speed gradually add eggs about a tablespoon at a time, waiting for the eggs to incorporate until adding the next bit.

7. Beat again at medium speed for about 2 minutes.

8. Measure flour, salt, and baking powder into bowl; whisk to combine.

9. With rubber spatula, fold flour mixture into cake batter until combined.

10. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, about 2/3s full.

11. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean

Cream Cheese Frosting (I usually half this for one batch of cupcakes, and even then I have lots leftover when I use a decorative tip to apply frosting)
12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring butter to room temperature by sitting it out for 1 or 2 hours.

2. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment.

3. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.

4. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined.

5. Add more sugar until you get to the consistency/sweetness you like.

Of course, no cupcake is a complete cupcake in this house without frosting and sprinkles (Ellie insists!), so our cupcakes tend to look the same even though we try a variety of recipes and flavor combos.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Halibut with Sesame-Lime Sauce

The halibut fillet I bought the other day was so huge that it cut up into four servings. Two were consumed in the recipe I posted yesterday, leaving two already cooked but plain fillets for another night. Turning again to the latest Cooking Light, I decided to try the sauce from their Steamed Halibut with Sesame-Lime Sauce and Coconut Rice recipe. Fresh and flavorful! We liked this sauce more than other.

Sesame-Lime Sauce

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (I omitted these for Stephanie's sake)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red curry paste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.
Place 1/2 cup rice on each of 4 plates; top with 1 fillet. Drizzle each serving with 2 tablespoons sauce. Serve with lime wedges.

Cooking Light, APRIL 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Malaysian Barbecue-Glazed Halibut

Over the weekend, we drove along the beach and made a stop at the Simonis fish market, where Jennifer picked up some shrimp and a huge halibut filet. We've been without seafood (excepting salmon) since that IHT article on European demand causing overfishing, and frankly we were ready for some fish! Not having any particular recipe in mind is what propelled the particular choices, since shrimp is always appreciated around here and halibut is a nice, neutral white fish. Yesterday, we received the latest issue of Cooking Light, and lo and behold there was an entire section of halibut recipes! We tried the Malaysian Barbecue-Glazed Halibut based on time and available ingredients, and we weren't disappointed. The sauce has a nice kick and a sweetness to balance out the salt. I served it over rice with a side of sugar snap peas because that's all we had that was quick. We'll have to get a better menu out of it next time. Although the sauce has a zing to it, the recipe would work well with any number of veggies or a simple salad with Asian-fusion dressing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Irresistable Peanut Butter Cookies

Only slightly modified from the Jif website, I have to agree with the cookie title. They are irresistable! Reese's was onto something with the peanut butter-chocolate combo, so I always add chocolate to my peanut butter cookies. This recipe was responsible for turning my non-peanut-butter-eating husband into a believer. Recently, our grocery store has stopped stocking light brown sugar, so this weekend I used a combo of white (3/4 cup) and dark brown (1/2 cup): WOW. Try it! And enjoy!

• 3/4 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
• 1/2 cup butter, room temperature (my replacement for shortening, which I don't like)
• 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
• 3 Tablespoons milk
• 1 Tablespoon vanilla
• 1 egg
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 cup or more chocolate chips (my addition)

• Preheat oven to 375ºF.
• Combine Jif peanut butter, butter, light brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl.
• Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
• Add egg. Beat just until blended.
• Combine flour, salt and baking soda.
• Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
• Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
• Bake at 375ºF for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.

• Makes 3 dozen cookies

A tasty variation on this is to omit the chocolate chips but top each cookie with a Hershey's Kiss when the cookies are fresh out of the oven. That was my favorite as a kiddo, and I bet that could top the list now too if that candy were available here. Yet another variation that I've never made but have tried in a bakery is topping the cookies with a Reese's peanut butter cup instead of the Kiss. Decadent.