Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peppermint: Peppermint Bark

Normally I am not a fan of white chocolate, but peppermint bark is what I would have to call a Christmas staple. Home-made peppermint bark has thicker layers and more crunch than the store-bought version, and is cheaper, which is why I choose to make my own. Also, I think peppermint bark is just downright pretty, and that is what holidays should be about, pleasing the senses. 

Peppermint bark

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Line an 8x8 pan with tin foil.
- Melt the semi-sweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon of oil in a double boiler.
- Pour melted chocolate into the pan, be sure the chocolate creates an even layer.
- Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes.
- Melt the white chocolate with 1 tablespoon of oil in a double boiler.
- Pour melted white chocolate on top of the semi-sweet chocolate, making a second even layer.
- Sprinkle crushed candy canes evenly across the top of the (still melty) white chocolate.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- To remove the bark, lift the foil out of the pan and peel away from the chocolate.
- Break into uneven pieces and store in air-tight container in the fridge.

One key to making good peppermint bark is to make sure you sprinkle the candy cane on the top while the white chocolate is still soft. Very important! If the white chocolate is allowed to harden, the candy canes will not stick and will fall everywhere and make a mess when you try to break up the bark. This is an excellent treat to have out on Christmas eve for the family to munch on, or to offer to guests during holiday house visits. I think I'll go eat some right now.


Tata for now,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peppermint: Christmas Cupcakes

I made these a couple years ago and they were a big hit, so here they are for all of you!

Christmas Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup water
4 peppermint tea bags
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch for egg whites
3 oz dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Boil the water and add tea bags, allow to steep for around 10 minutes (then discard tea bags).
- In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
- In a double boiler (or a make-shift one composed of two pots) over simmering water combine tea, chocolate, sugar, and butter. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks.
- Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream, beating well between additions.
- In another bowl, beat egg whites and salt until it forms stiff peaks. Fold into the batter.

Fill the cupcake papers about 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.

Peppermint candy frosting
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon milk
A pinch of salt
A few drops of peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy (I use candy canes)

- In a large bowl, blend together the cream cheese, milk, salt, and peppermint extract. Beat until smooth.
- Gradually add in the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition.
- Fold in the crushed peppermint candy. Spread on cupcakes.

For more decoration get creative with candy canes or sprinkles. I used extra crushed candy canes this time but I have used whole mini candy canes before as decoration for these and that also works well. These are rich cupcakes. The icing is very sweet and the cupcake is moist and has a distinctive flavor. I hope some of you still have holiday parties that you can use this tasty recipe for.

Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman

Tata for now,
L. Mousse

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peppermint: Peppermint Meringue Cookies

Greetings All~
The seasons continue to change and I continue to bake. With the colder weather comes a new theme, peppermint! When I think holiday treats immediately peppermint comes to mind; candy-canes, peppermint hot chocolate, and red and green Christmas cookies. No matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, if you celebrate any at all, it is hard to go wrong or offend anyone with peppermint as a theme. I begin this new theme with what I consider one of the cutest of cookies of all time.

Peppermint meringue cookies

Swiss Meringue
4 egg whites, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 pinches cream of tartar (a pinch is commonly considered to be 1/8 of a teaspoon)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F. and cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
-Put water in a pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- In a heat-proof bowl mix together egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar.
- Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk ingredients consistently for about 3 minutes.
- Whisk until all the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are warm (not hot).
- Remove mixture from heat and whisk, by hand or electric mixer.
- Begin whisking on a low speed and slowly increase to high speed over about 10 minutes.
- When glossy peaks begin to form add the peppermint extract, mix in.
- Put the meringue in a pastry bag or decorating gun and pipe onto baking sheets in whatever shape makes you happy (I used a large star-shaped tip).

Bake cookies for around 2 hours. They should be firm, but not browned. Remove them from the parchment paper promptly and cool on a wire rack. 

~ As far as presentation goes, I chose to attempt to make half of the cookies pink. Unfortunately, adding the food coloring disrupted the meringue and my pink cookies did not hold their shape as well as the white cookies did. However, I think a little extra cream of tartar and extra whipping could remedy this because, come on, pink meringues are so cute! These work well on a plate or in a bowl, as they aren't squishy and won't lose their shape when all thrown in together. They are also relatively easy to make, as long as you don't mind a lot of whipping, and would make an excellent treat to give out as holiday gifts.

Modified from the Martha Stewart website

Have a mentioned that I love holidays?

Tata for now,
L. Mousse

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin: Pumpkin Custard Pie

Happy Thanksgiving week everyone!

Grandma Linny's pumpkin custard pie

3 eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
3 cups pumpkin
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 cups milk, total (use 1 can evaporated milk and then the rest regular milk)
cinnamon, for topping

This recipe makes two 9 inch pies, or three 8 inch pies
- In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk.
- In a small bowl mix sugar and cornstarch together until there are no lumps.
- Add sugar and starch to eggs, mix well.
- Add the pumpkin to the bowl and, once again, be sure to mix well.
- Melt the butter in a pan, then allow to cool slightly.
- Combine the milk and butter.
- Stir milk and butter into the pumpkin, mix VERY well.
- Pour into pie shells and top with cinnamon.

Bake at 425 degrees F. for 20 minutes first, then bake at 325 degrees F. for 30 minutes. A knife inserted into the middle should come out clean.

This pie is not spicy, like a traditional pumpkin pie, and the consistency is different. However, this is the pie my family makes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so when I think holidays I think this pie. Pumpkin custard is one of the greatest creations ever, at least in my opinion. 

Pumpkin custard (variation)
1 can pumpkin (or equivalent, approximately 1 little baking pumpkin per pie)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted 
cinnamon, for topping 

This recipe makes one pie worth of custard, bake at 350 degrees F. until firm
- Beat the eggs, then add sugar.
- Add pumpkin and mix well.
- Melt the butter and then add it to the milk.
- Add milk and butter to the pumpkin bowl, mix well.
- Top with cinnamon

This recipe works in either a pie or just for a bowl or casserole dish of pumpkin custard. To know if it is done, do the jiggle test (mentioned here) or insert a knife and see if it comes out clean.  If you really prefer spiced pumpkin desserts, feel free to add whatever spices strike your fancy to the mixture before you bake it (nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, etc.). 

Recipes from my family!
I took pictures of a pie my roommate made

Tata for now,
L. Mousse

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin: Cream of Pumpkin Soup

Finally, something savory.

Cream of pumpkin soup

2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups pumpkin, cooked
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Coriander, ginger, salt, and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a pot
- Add minced garlic and carrots to melted butter, simmer until carrots are soft.
- Add pumpkin, stir, then add milk, stir.
- Gently bring mixture to a boil.
- Add maple syrup and spices.
- Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Put soup in a blender and puree until completely smooth.
Serve hot.

This recipe does not produce a large quantity of soup. If you are planning on serving more than three or four people I would suggest making a double batch. The soup itself is fluffy and creamy, which I really like about it. Remember not to leave it unattended, as dairy based soups are prone to boil over at any moment. It is definitely a savory soup, but the maple syrup brings out just a touch of the pumpkin's sweetness to create a delicious mix of sweet and salty flavors.

Sorry it was so long between updates, my computer decided to go into a coma for a few days.

Also, I made up this recipe, so no outside credit is due.

Tata for now,
L. Mousse

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin: Spicy Pumpkin Casserole

Spicy pumpkin and hazelnut dessert casserole

16 ounces of pumpkin
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups half-and-half 
3 eggs
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Whipped cream for topping

Grease a one and a half quart casserole dish  and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Put pumpkin in a large bowl and set aside.
- Mix brown sugar, salt, and spices in a separate small bowl, then add to the pumpkin. 
- In another bowl, whisk together half-and-half and eggs until frothy. 
- Add cream mixture to pumpkin and blend until smooth (it will be a liquid of sorts).
- Pour mixture into casserole dish and sprinkle the hazelnuts on top.
- Drizzle the melted butter over everything.
- Cook for 50 to 55 minutes 
- Let cool, then top with whipped cream!

This dish is basically a custard. To check if it is done you can do the traditional test of sticking a knife or fork into it and seeing if it comes out clean, or you can do the jiggle test and shake the dish in the oven; if it is really jiggly, it isn't done yet. This dish is very very hazelnutty. If you like/love hazelnuts this is the dish for you. Overall, it is a tasty alternative to pumpkin pie or sweet potato casserole. I personally am not such a big hazelnut fan, so when I make this again I may cut the amount of nuts in half, or use pecans.

- credit -
From the  "Crazy for Casseroles" cookbook.

Tata for now,
L. Mousse 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin: Pumpkin Nut Muffins

Pumpkin nut muffins with Orange juice icing

Pumpkin nut muffins
1 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground/grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) room temp.
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup chopped nuts (I suggest pecans or walnuts)

Set oven to 350 degrees F. and grease muffin tin.
- Mix together dry ingredients and set aside.
- Cream sugar and butter until fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, mix well.
- Add pumpkin and vanilla, beat till smooth.
- Fold nuts into batter, then fill muffin cups 2/3 of the way full.
- Bake for around 30 minutes.

I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts because I didn't have enough of either on hand. The combination was delicious. I imagine other types of nuts would taste just as wonderful, so experiment!

Orange juice icing
1/4 cup of butter (half a stick) room temp.
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 egg white
Pinch of salt

I suggest getting one orange and using it for both the zest and the juice.
- Cream sugar and butter until fluffy.
- Beat in orange zest and orange juice, set aside.
- In another bowl, beat egg white and salt until it forms stiff peaks.
- Fold egg whites into sugar mixture, then spread on cooled muffins.

I found that this icing was good for a simple spreading decoration. It was not stiff enough to make designs that would hold. Feel free to try adding more powdered sugar if you want a more firm icing effect. 

The original recipe I used was for "cupcakes," but I found the result to be much more of a muffin. In light of such, in my rendition of the recipe I have re-named it as such. These are really delicious and taste of fall. Perfect for a brunch out under the changing leaves.

Both recipes from the "Cupcakes Galore" cookbook.

Tata for now,
L. Mousse

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin: Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate-chips and cinnamon icing

Pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate-chips
1 cup pumpkin
1/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini-chocolate-chips

Set the oven for 35o degrees F. and get your cupcake pan ready, greasing it or using liners.
- In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla. 
- Next, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt to the wet ingredients.
- Stir gently with a fork. Too much mixing will make the batter gummy instead of fluffy. 
- Finally, fold the mini-chocolate-chips into the batter and pour into pan (cups 2/3 full).

- 22 to 24 minutes bake time, cool on wire rack.

I chose to make this recipe non-vegan, but the original is, in fact, vegan. Substitute granulated sugar for normal white sugar and use soy milk instead of regular milk. I also was out of vanilla, so I used almond extract. I do not suggest this, although it is tasty, because the almond completely over-powered the pumpkin. I also used mini instead of normal chocolate-chips because I have found that minis have less of a disruptive effect on the consistency of the cupcakes. Feel free to try your own variations!

Cinnamon icing
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

Begin with your sugar and cinnamon in a bowl together.
- Add the melted butter, milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Stir until smooth.
- Keep at room-temperature until cupcakes are cool, then decorate as you please.

I chose to use 1/4 of a cup more confectioners' sugar than the original recipe called for because I wanted a more stable icing for decorating (as opposed to more of a glaze). The original recipe, as with the cupcakes, is vegan. If that is your desire, use margarine instead of butter and soy milk instead of milk. For decorating, I used an icing gun with a rope nozzle. I enjoy trying new icing designs, so I encourage you to be creative with your cupcakes.

Both recipes adapted from "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World" 

More pumpkiney goodness to come this week. I'm thinking casserole?

Tata for now,
L. Mousse

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin: Pumpkin Bread with Whiskey

Well, Hello!
It is that wonderful time of year when the leaves change to yellow, red, and orange, and the night air becomes crisp. It is also the season of pumpkins, and oh, how I love pumpkins. There is a charming little church that sells pumpkins in my town (as they have done for as long as I can remember). The baking pumpkins at the church are cheap and the selection is plentiful, which is the perfect excuse to bake all things pumpkiney. Either use fresh pumpkin (as I did), frozen pumpkin from last season, or canned pumpkin. In this entry I will share the recipe for Pumpkin bread with whiskey sauce. Enjoy~

Cooking a Pumpkin 
- Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and goo (technical term).
- Place the pumpkin inside-down on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F until soft. By "soft" I mean a fork should be easily poked into the pumpkin. 
- Once cooled slightly, scoop the delicious pumpkin meat out of its now-squishy shell and use in whatever way you desire.

Pumpkin bread with whiskey sauce

Pumpkin Bread
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons ground flax
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pureed pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter whatever pan you choose to use. I used one medium loaf and two small ones, but this recipe would also work for muffins (cooking time 25 min.) or one large loaf (cooking time 45 min.). 
- Combine eggs, oil, honey, and vanilla in a bowl, set aside. 
- Use a large bowl and mix flour, flax, spices, and baking powder and soda.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stir until jut mixed. Stir in pumpkin.
- Pour batter into desired pan.

Whiskey Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup bourbon

Begin this process with a saucepan.
- Over medium heat, bring cream to a boil.
- In a separate bowl whisk water and cornstarch together, then add to cream while whisking continuously.
- Allow to simmer for a few minutes, whisking all the while to avoid burning. 
- Remove from heat and stir in sugar and bourbon.
- Cool to room temperature before use.

 Bread recipe adapted from a recipe in "Rodale's Basic Natural Foods Cookbook"
Sauce recipe found online, credit given to "Commander's Palace Restaurant"

I will continue the pumpkin journey with the Pumpkin cupcakes with chocolate-chips and cinnamon icing recipe in my next post.

Tata for now,
L. Mousse