Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Irish Potato Leek Soup

A couple years ago, my husband and I went on a great trip to Ireland. Ireland is probably not really known for its food, but it is known for its soups, especially those involving potatoes, which are a pretty traditional irish food going way back for historical reasons. Anyhow, while in Ireland, we tasted a few pretty delicious soups (my favorite being the Guinness stew at the brewery in Dublin), and I picked up a small book of Irish soups and breads. I've tried a couple from this book and they are all excellent. Here's the delicious potato leek soup we made last week.

Potato Leek Soup (from Irish Soups and Breads)
1 1/2 pounds leeks (I used three extremely large leeks)
3 medium potatoes
3 sticks celery
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
4 T butter
5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
3 scallions
my additions - bit of parmesan cheese and paprika

Peel and chop the potatoes into cubes, and chop the garlic finely. Clean the leeks and the celery well, and chop those too. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add all of these vegetables to the melted butter. Cook gently for about ten minutes on medium heat, not allowing the potatoes to burn. I used a mixture of 1/2 olive oil and half butter instead of all butter, and that worked out well too.  Add 3/4 of the stock and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup in batches in the blender and add the rest of the stock.

To serve, I topped with croutons, a bit of parmesan cheese, diced scallions and a pinch of paprika. It was a pretty perfect Irish soup!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Blueberry Souffle

You know I love blueberries, so when I received a gift card from ShopRite as part of my participation in the PotLuck ShopRite blog program to go to my local ShopRite in Brooklyn and buy some of ShopRite's local New Jersey fruits, I knew that blueberries were the way to go. Now, I love farmers market fruit, but it is so expensive. I was truly impressed with the quality and freshness of ShopRite's peaches and blueberries that I bought for use in two desserts last weekend - a peach/blueberry cobbler and a blueberry souffle. Both were fresh and juicy with vibrant colors, just they way they should be. Perfect, locally grown fruit that was just right for use in these two recipes and doesn't break the bank.

Blueberry Souffle (recipe from derived from the Food Network)
1 T butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 T for dusting the souffle dishes
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
3 egg yolks
5 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 400 before you begin. Butter the insides of 4 10 ounce ramekins and lightly dust each with a bit of sugar. Beat the egg yolks with 1/4 cup fi sugar and then beat in the blueberry puree, beating well. Whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer on high. Once foamy, add the remaining sugar slowly while beating on high for several minutes until meringue like peaks form. Fill the souffle dishes to the brim and smooth the tops. Bake the souffles in the middle of the oven for ten to twelve minutes.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Garden Party Themed Three Tier Chocolate Cake

Most of the time, I make and decorate cupcakes instead of cakes, because cakes are just - well so big. But making cakes is so much fun for a large gathering of people, especially big and even multi tiered cakes. Last weekend, my in laws had the family over for July 4th and I decided to make a large, three layered chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream. I decorated the cake with lovely flowers of all colors on a blue background for a garden party theme. I was really pleased with the results so I thought I would share the cake and recipe here. I used Wilton cake tips to do the petals on the flowers and the leaves, as well as the vines. I got all of the supplies for the decorating at New York Cake, a fabulous baking supply store. Since I had to reuse the petal tip for the different color flowers, I found that using disposable pastry bags for the buttercream was easiest when decorating with the tips. I got the recipe for this delicious chocolate cake from the Alice's Tea Cup Cookbook, and found that their chocolate cake recipe was moist and delicious.

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
2 cups of sugar
1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup hot brewed coffe

Vanilla Buttercream (make two batches, one for the layers and covering the cake and one for decorating)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 lb confectioner's sugar (about four cups)
2 T whole milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

To prepare the cake, preheat the oven to 350. You will need three eight inch cake pans. Next time I make this, I am going to do a second tier, whip up another batch, and also make three six inch cake plans as well for the smaller tier on top. Prepare the three eight inch cake pans and combine the fry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt). In the basin of your stand mixer, on medium speed, beat the sour cream and eggs (one at a time), milk, oil and vanilla, and add in the dry ingredients, mixing for two minutes. Scape down the bowl and drizzle in the coffee and blend until smooth. It will be a very liquidy mixture, which is fine and appropriate.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans before gently removing from the pans and allowing to cool on a wire rack until room temperature.  If necessary, trim the tops of the cake to level them, but I found that this recipe did not require any leveling.

Make a first batch of buttercream by beating together those ingredients into a smooth buttercream. I added a drop of blue gel food color to get the desired color.

To build the cake, frost the three layers with buttercream and stack. Then frost the sides. I recommend using a large metal spatula to frost and to smooth the cakes so the frosting is nice and even. You can use a little metal device (no idea what its called, sorry) to make some texture on the side of the cake as well (See the photo above). You will want to get the base frosting as smooth as possible before decorating. I used blue as  for the inside as well (baby blue, actually) but you could be more traditional and use plain instead. Also, another tip - I bought a cake turntable for rotating the cake while building and decorating - it makes the entire process much easier. I got mine here in Park Slope at Tarzian West.

Make another batch of buttercream to decorate. I divided this batch into five parts and dyed with the gel food color to make orange, purple, pink, green, and yellow. The I used the Wilton flower tip to do the petals in each color, a star tip to do the yellow centers, a leaf tip for the leaves and a thin circle tip for the vines. It's cake art!
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