Sunday, June 16, 2013

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE GANACHE AND COCONUT TOPPING


In 1957, a homemaker made history when she sent her recipe for a sweet chocolate cake covered with a rich, coconut-pecan frosting to a Dallas, Texas newspaper.  The cake uses a chocolate that was created by Samuel German, an employee of the Baker Company, in 1852 as a convenience item for home cooks because German mixed the sugar with the chocolate.  It took a century for his chocolate to come to fame with this typically Southern recipe that enjoys almost universal appeal.  Of course, millennial cooks have changed the original recipe to appeal to the modern palate.  Dark Chocolate ganache is usually found somewhere on the cake today because we have a taste for it now.

I adapted this recipe from The Kitchen is My Playground blog.  I was more specific with directions, as I feel baking is pretty much an exact science.  I used 1/4 tsp. salt instead of a pinch, unsalted butter, a bittersweet chocolate ganache instead of chocolate frosting and chocolate sprinkles and I cut the coconut topping to 1/3 the recipe.  Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly.  My taste testers and I went crazy over these cupcakes.  The cupcakes are very light, moist, sweet and just chocolatey enough, mimicking the difficult-to-make typical chocolate cake associated with this dessert -- but these cupcakes use a quick-mix method that is more baker friendly and harder to mess up.  The homemade cooked topping is very rich and absolutely divine, and the very easy bittersweet ganache balances out all the sweetness.  These make a truly memorable dessert, one that anyone would be proud to offer their guests.  Please do try these soon.  


German Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache and Coconut Topping
Adapted from The Kitchen is My Playground
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

CUPCAKES:
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked, then lightly spooned and leveled
3 Tbsp. unsweetened natural cocoa powder
Scant 3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cool room temperature

1/2 cup whole or 2% lowfat milk
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.  Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in bowl of a stand mixer.  Using paddle attachment, mix on stir speed until combined and crumbly like sand.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg and vanilla.  Slowly pour about half the milk mixture into the flour mixture.  Mix on low speed to combine.  Once combined, turn mixer to high (cake mix speed) and beat for about 10 seconds to remove any lumps.

Return to low speed and pour in remaining milk mixture.  Mix until all ingredients are just incorporated, then beat for about another 30 seconds to one minute, until the batter is smooth.  Remove beaters and bowl and scrape the batter with a spatula, giving it a last few turns to ensure it is evenly mixed.  

Spoon about 2 Tbsp. batter into each cup, to fill cups about half full.  Bake 16-19 minutes, or till cupcakes spring back when lightly touched, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool 5 minutes in pan, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.  You can freeze the cupcakes, once cooled, if you intend to make the other components  at a later date.

COCONUT TOPPING:
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. unsalted butter
Pinch Diamond kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. finely shredded sweetened dried coconut*
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans

For garnish:  12 pecan halves

*To finely shred coconut, first, measure desired amount.  Place in mini food processor and pulse for several seconds to finely shred.  

Combine all topping ingredients except pecans in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until thick, about 7-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in chopped pecans.  Let cool to lukewarm.  Refrigerate, covered, any unused portion.

BITTERSWEET GANACHE:
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, if desired)

In small microwaveable dish, heat cream on high 6-8 seconds, till steaming (or heat cream in small pan on medium heat till steaming).  Add chocolate and stir till combined and smooth.  

ASSEMBLE:
Spread ganache thinly on each cupcake top.  Top with a small cookie scoop (about 1-1/2 Tbsp.) of topping.  Press 1 pecan half onto top of coconut topping on each cupcake.  
Yield:  12 lovely, delicious, decadent, memorable cupcakes

TIP:  If you don't have time to make these all in one shot, then make the cupcakes and freeze them up to a month ahead.  Make the coconut topping and refrigerate for up to a week.  Then, when you want to assemble them, take the cupcakes out to thaw, take the topping out to soften, make the ganache and assemble.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

GRANITE-TOPPED TABLE WITH ANTIQUE SEWING MACHINE LEGS FOR SALE


We recently converted our covered porch to a sunroom.  Because we added sunroom furniture, we lost space for one of our tables.  The table pictured above is 25" x 33", perfect for an entry, a plant stand, an eating/snack table, or a place to do paper work.  The chairs are not for sale.

We've invested considerable time and money in restoring the legs.  They're freshly painted, including gold paint for the Singer name.

The Singer trademark is also detailed beautifully in gold paint.

The durable granite is encased in wood for a nice custom effect.  The granite is very dark green which presents as more of a black color until you look carefully and see the green specks.

We're very sad to see this beauty go, but we just don't have room for it.  Our other table is currently in the garage awaiting restoration, and the one you see above, already restored, is the one we're selling for a very reasonable price of $169.00.  This item is too heavy to be shipped, so you have to live in or near New Bern, or be willing to travel to New Bern, to take advantage of this offer.  Please leave a comment  at the bottom of this post with your contact information if you are interested.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

THE TRAWL DOOR, ORIENTAL, NC


It's been many years since my last visit to the Trawl Door Restaurant in Oriental, and my memory of the physical layout back in the day is hazy.  I do remember the food -- fried fish, hush puppies, French fries -- typical Southern fare.  I was excited to check out the resurrection of the Trawl Door by New Bern's Flame Restaurant, hoping for a more modern cuisine.

There are three dining venues at the Trawl Door:  an open-air deck, a covered deck/bar and the inside dining room.  We chose the latter.  The restaurant is on the water, and the open-air deck is the only venue that has water views.  Even so, management has done a beautiful job renovating the inside.  Below is a photo taken as I was exiting the very nice Ladies Room.


Go straight and you'll be back outside.  Turn right, and you're headed toward the dining room, as below.

The dining room is on the dark side, even though there are some windows that face the parking lot, but it has a nice feel.

There were four of us, and we each ordered something different.  For me, it was Pan Seared Flounder with summer squash, zucchini olive oil and basil tomatoes, natural juice and mashed potatoes ($15.95). I asked for another veggie in place of the potatoes but when my entree came, there was just the squash.  The veggies were under the fish and they, and the fish, were absolutely delightful, cooked to perfection.  The veggies were not too raw and not too cooked, and the sauce was perfect on the mild flounder.

Bob ordered Seared cod with garlic mashed potatoes, andouille sausage and clam broth ($16.95).  There were some small clams with this dish.  He raved about everything.

Darian asked for Seared Atlantic salmon with truffle tomatoes vinaigrette mashed potatoes and
lobster nage ($18.95).  She asked for another veggie in place of the mashed potatoes and got a cauliflower-broccoli medley.  She loved the veggies and the fish.

Serving sizes on all of the above entrees were adequate, but not huge.  None of us had difficulty finishing our entrees and there were no leftovers to carry home.  The fried seafood platter, below, is a larger entree.  It should also be mentioned that none of the four of us were served hot entrees.  Everything was warm, which was okay, but not preferable.  Like good diners, no one asked for anything to be returned or replaced.  We dined early (6:30 pm), and the restaurant was not crowded, but we did order four different entrees, so that may be what the problem was.

Hubby Guy, a clam lover, was upset there were no clams on the menu.  The only thing he could find to order was the Seafood Platter of fried shrimp, oyster, calamari and flounder served with a side of 
coleslaw($19.95).  He asked for more shrimp in place of the calamari.  Though it wasn't mentioned on the menu, this entree also came with French fries.  When he asked for tartar sauce, he was told there was none available, but one of the sous chefs made him a red sauce.  He loved the shrimp and oysters and ate them all.  He left the flounder.  

We asked our very cordial server to take a photo of us before we left. Guy and Darian are on the left, and Bob and I are on the right.



The Trawl Door, http://www.thetrawldoor.com, 518 Water Street, Oriental, NC, (252)249-3500



LIVE ENTERTAINMENT BEGINS FRIDAY MAY 24TH

Monday, May 13, 2013

WELCOME SPRING: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY



All year, we wait for Spring to enjoy the two lush, beautiful flowering Chinese Fringe trees in our yard.  The trees are completely loaded with fringe-y flowers for a full two weeks, sometimes longer.


We never tire of neighbors stopping by and remarking on the sheer beauty of the trees, asking us where we bought them.  (We purchased  them from Tru Value Hardware store on Trent Road/McCarthy Blvd. about six years ago, when they were young saplings.)

Unfortunately, we were so busy admiring the flowering trees and doing yard work, that we failed to notice a slow but steady downturn in our beloved Meyer Lemon tree, until the leaves were almost gone.  It was spider mites again.  The tree has turned ugly, at least for a while.  After three sprays for spider mites, we finally have seen new growth, but it will take a while for the tree to come back.  The spider mites are stubborn and there are still some on the underleaves.


I marked our calendar for next February.  We'll check our citrus trees then for spider mites.  They're going to be there every year, guaranteed -- we just have to spray before the damage becomes severe.
Our thanks to the girls at Pinecone Perennials for cluing us in on the spider mites.  We do love that store.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

DAIRY-FREE COCOA CUPCAKES WITH PEANUT BUTTER FILLING AND MARSHMALLOW FROSTING



We have a friend who has recently been diagnosed with severe lactose intolerance.  Imagine not being able to eat ice cream, whipped cream, yogurt or sour cream and having to avoid most desserts.  So, when we were invited to share Easter dinner with them, I was determined to bring a dairy-free dessert that didn't taste dairy free.  I succeeded in not only making him happy, but also his entire family.  You don't have to be lactose intolerant to enjoy these great cupcakes.  They're so good, you won't even think about lactose...or intolerance.



They are a bit of work, though.  First you make a from-scratch cupcake, then a filling, then Italian meringue frosting (aka marshmallow fluff), then melt chocolate to drizzle, then crush up peanuts.  It will take a while, but believe me, it's worth it.  These are so very good.  The cupcake is chocolatey, light and moist; the frosting is not overly sweet as most commercial marshmallow fluff is; the peanut butter filling complements the cupcake flavors; and the chocolate drizzle and peanut topping are the perfect finishing touches.  Not only that, but once you see these beauties, you will WANT to eat them.

Dairy-Free Cocoa Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling and Marshmallow Frosting
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

CUPCAKES:

1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder, sifted
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked then lightly spooned and leveled
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. chocolate flavor (I used Spices, etc., purchased online)
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee, decaf or regular

Heat oven to 350F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  In large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In medium bowl  whisk egg, oil, sugars, flavorings and coffee.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients using a spoon or spatula.  Batter will be somewhat lumpy -- do not over mix it to make it smooth.  Using an ice cream scoop (1/4 cup), fill paper liners.  Bake about 16 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn cupcakes out onto wire rack to completely cool.

PEANUT-BUTTER FILLING:
7 Tbsp. Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter
2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. soy milk

In small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Core cooled cupcakes with a Cuisipro or other hollowing device, and fill cavity with peanut butter filling.  Eat the cupcake pieces you cored; sandwich two with some peanut butter filling and marshmallow frosting.

ITALIAN MERINGUE (HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOW FLUFF):
3 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided use
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder or vanilla extract
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar

In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, bring water, corn syrup and 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar to a rolling boil on high heat, brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.  Do not stir mixture, as it will cause it to crystallize.  Boil until mixture reaches 242F, or soft-ball stage.

In the meantime, a few minutes after the sugar mixture comes to a boil, place egg whites in a completely clean, dry mixing bowl.  Using regular beaters on medium-high speed whip egg whites, vanilla powder or extract, salt and cream of tartar until creamy and foamy, about 2 minutes.  With mixer still on, sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp. of sugar over the whites and continue beating until whites hold very soft peaks, another 2 minutes.  When syrup has reached 242F, reduce mixer speed to low.  Find the sweet spot (between the sides of the bowl and the beaters) and very, very slowly and carefully drizzle in the hot syrup.  After all syrup has been added, turn mixer to high and beat till thick, fluffy and just barely warm, about 7 minutes.  Fit a 16" piping bag with a 1M Wilton tip; spoon frosting into bag and pipe onto cupcakes making high mounds of frosting.

GARNISHES:
About 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
About 1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, crushed or chopped

Place chocolate into one bottom corner of a resealable plastic bag.  Microwave on high about 30 seconds.  Continue microwaving on high at 10-second intervals until chocolate is melted.  Very carefully cut the tiniest corner to make a very small hole through which the chocolate may be drizzled onto the frosting.  Lightly sprinkle peanuts over cupcakes.

TIME-SAVING TIPS:  Instead of making peanut butter filling, just use Peanut Butter & Co.'s White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter, available at Wal-Mart or Harris Teeter.  If you're not lactose intolerant, you could use a cake mix for the cupcakes, but you will have to double the other ingredients.


Friday, April 26, 2013

ENTER TO WIN A $75 VALUE GIFT BAG!


To celebrate their upcoming food truck tour*, Friendship Dairies is giving away to one lucky reader the following: 

-Branded Friendship cloth grocery bag ($15 value)



-$15 iTunes gift card (to create a mix for your workouts)



-Brita Filtered water bottle ($10 value)



-Rocco DiSpirito’s new cookbook: “Now Eat This! Italian: Favorite Dishes from the Real Mamas of Italy--All Under 350 Calories” ($26.99 retail)



-two Coupons for FREE Friendship Dairies products ($8 value) 



TOTAL VALUE OF GIVEAWAY:  $75 


This contest is limited to US entries only, including Alaska and Hawaii residents, and deadline to enter is Midnight, Tuesday, April 30.  

For complete information on how to enter (don't worryit's easy), go to my main blog, Judy's Kitchen.


*Friendship Dairies will be having a food truck tour with celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito that will be passing through the New York Metro area this May.  The mobile mixer truck will be serving free 5-ounce Friendship Fit to Go™ 1% Low Fat, 1% Low Fat Pineapple, and 4% Regular cottage cheese samples with innovative mix-in options.  Check out the Friendship Dairies website to find where you can purchase their products in your area, to follow the food truck and to get recipes.  (Friendship Dairies products are predominantly distributed along the East Coast of the US with limited distribution in other states.) 



Thursday, April 25, 2013

MAPLE-GLAZED OATMEAL-MAPLE-PECAN MUFFINS WITH MAPLE-PECAN STREUSEL


These muffins are loaded.   Delicious buttery pecans, oatmeal and maple syrup will provide a great way to start your day or a perfect afternoon snack.   To get a more intense maple flavor, though, you have to use Grade B syrup in addition to maple flavoring.  Grade B syrup is available at Harris Teeter in the maple syrup section, on the top shelf.  

Since brands of maple flavoring vary in intensity, it would be best to start with less flavoring and adjust to taste.  I used Boyajian maple flavoring, purchased online per King Arthur Flour Company's recommendation, but I was very disappointed.  It tastes more like coffee flavor than maple flavor.  The company did not respond to my email questions concerning their product ingredients.  The good news:  even though the maple flavoring didn't taste like maple flavoring, the muffins tasted great.  Coffee and maple syrup, it seems, are great flavor partners.

Set out all your ingredients first and be sure they're room temperature before you start. If you want morning muffins but don't want to get up early to make them, just make them the day before and give them a quick zap in the microwave to warm them in the morning.  You won't need any butter on these -- they're perfect as is.  (But I would suggest a slice or two of bacon for a great accompaniment.)

Maple-Glazed Oatmeal-Maple-Pecan Muffins with Maple-Pecan Streusel
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans + 1/2 cup
2 Tbsp. quick oats + 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup + 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup, Grade B preferred
1/4 tsp. maple flavor + 1 tsp. + 1/4 tsp.
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted + 2 tsp.
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
scant 1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

In small bowl, combine whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup pecans, 2 Tbsp. oats, 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1/4 tsp. maple flavor  and 1 Tbsp. melted butter.  Set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together 1 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. quick oats, 1/2 cup pecans, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 tsp. maple flavor, oil and egg.  Add liquids to dry ingredients all at once, stirring lightly with spoon or spatula till just barely combined.  Let batter rest 20-30 minutes before filling greased muffin tins with about 1/4 cup batter and 1/2 Tbsp. streusel.  While batter is resting, heat oven to 350F.  Bake 17-19 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool muffins in tins 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.

While muffins are cooling, combine confectioner's sugar, 2 tsp. melted butter, 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/4 tsp. maple flavor in small bowl, stirring with spoon or fork till smooth.  Drizzle warm muffins with glaze.  Yield 12 standard-size muffins