Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: White Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes a couple weeks ago, using some homemade raspberry preserves that I canned myself last August in my very first home preserving project.  They were delicious and have been great in several desserts, including the raspberry swirl cheesecake I made over the winter.  I haven't made cupcakes in awhile, and these aren't creatively decorated like some of my desserts, but are light, delicate and summery.  The white chocolate is quite lovely with the raspberry buttercream.

Sasha's White Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
White Chocolate Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 whole eggs
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), softened
1/2 tsp salt
3/4  cup granulated sugar
5 oz melted white chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk

Raspberry Buttercream
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup raspberry jam
4 cups confectioners' sugar

To make the cupcakes, combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.  Melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler and stir until smooth.  In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light on medium high speed for about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, adding one at a time.  Then beat in the white chocolate and vanilla.  With the stand mixer on low, alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures until incorporated.  Divide into cupcake molds that are lined and bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter until smooth.  Beat in the sugar and jam until smooth and a lovely shade of pink.  Pipe on the cupcakes (once cooled) using a pastry bag.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Herbed Goat Cheese Salad with Strawberries

Goat cheese is one of my favorite foods, and I especially love it in a salad, when it is breaded and warm, the way they do it in good restaurants.  It's actually not that hard to achieve the same result at home by using the proper technique.  This salad, with a homemade basil dijon vinaigrette is enhanced by any seasonal fruit, but this time of year, it is great with fresh local strawberries, which can be arranged outside the perimeter of the salad for a pretty presentation.  This recipe serves four as an appetizer, or two as a dinner salad.

Sasha's Herbed Goat Cheese Salad
5 oz salad mesculin greens
sliced fresh strawberries
9 T canola oil
1 T dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, diced
3 T red wine vinegar
1 T finely diced basil
4 oz herbed goat cheese, cut into four rounds (I used Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery)
2 egg whites
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

First, slice the goat cheese into four rounds.  Then, scramble the egg whites with a whisk and coat in the whites, then cover with the panko.  Recoat with the whites and cover with a second layer of panko.  Place on parchment paper (so it doesn't stick to the plate) and put in the freezer for half an hour.  Heat up canola oil in a frying pan and fry for about two minutes on each side over medium high heat.  Place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.  Serve while warm.  To make the dressing, whisk together the garlic, vinegar and dijon mustard.  Pour in oil and mix constantly into the vinegar base to emulsify.  Add the basil and mix well.  Add about 2/3 of the dressing to 5-6 oz of salad greens.  You can add a bit at a time to get the desired effect so you don't get a soggy over dressed salad.  Serve with sliced strawberries.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Rosewater Macarons with Raspberry White Chocolate Ganache

I'm a big fan of anything Parisian these days.  I've wanted to explore Parisian pastries for a long time, because they are so lovely, pretty and delicate and also delicious.  I had tried making macarons about a year and a half ago, but was not very pleased with the results.  Macarons are the darlings of the French pastry world - the new cupcake so to speak.  They can come in every flavor and color, and are light and delicate and oh so pretty.  All I strived for was a lovely little macaron like the ones we tasted at Pierre Herme's shop in Paris.  I finally decided I was up to the task again, that I could figure out the intricate and particular art of macaron making.  I bought a new book on macarons for my arsenal - Les Petits Macarons by Kathryn Gordon and Anne McBride.  The video on their website is also a terrific supportive primer to macaron making.  I strongly suggest purchasing this book!  I'll walk through the steps that I followed like I always do on this blog, but the book itself is a huge help (especially the troubleshooting section in the back) for a successful hands on macaron experience.  I have made two batches of macarons using this book.  The first was a rosewater macaron with a white chocolate raspberry ganache filling.  The second, which I will post about next week, was even better (because my technique improved with some practice), a chocolate macaron with an expresso-cinnamon-chocolate ganache.  Please note that for the rosewater macarons, I used a small amount of rosewater flavoring, rather than rose petals, as suggested by the book.  With macarons, it is essential to measure ingredients precisely - for this reason, I used, as recommended by Gordon's book, a digital kitchen scale to weigh out everything in grams.   The book has several methods for preparing macarons, French, Italian and Swiss.  I used the French macaron method.  This time, I basically have photos of the finished product, but for my next macaron post, I took numerous process photos to share as well.  Stay tuned!

Rosewater Macarons with White Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
165 grams almond flour
165 grams confectioner's sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
5 grams powdered egg whites
150 grams granulated sugar
115 grams aged egg whites (from approximately four eggs)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
pink gel food color (a few drops)
1 tsp rosewater

Rose-Raspberry White Chocolate Ganache
11 ounces (320 grams) white chocolate, chopped
2 T corn syrup
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup raspberry puree (from fresh raspberries)
1 T unsalted butter, soft
1 tsp rose compound
1 T framboise

To make the macarons, double stack two sets of baking sheets.  This allows the heat to distribute more evenly which is key.  Line with either silicon silpat mats (I bought mine at NY Cake and they are terrific) or with parchment paper.

Place the almond flour, confectioner's sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse four times for three seconds.  Sift until well mixed.  Make the French meringue next but whisking the powdered egg whites with the granulated sugar in the bowl of a mixer with a whisk attachment.  Whisk in the egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is homogenous.  Set on medium to medium high speed and whisk about 10-11 minutes until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks.  Add the rosewater extract and gel food color to the meringue.

Next up the famous macaronner step, a folding step with Gordon's book describes in more detail.  With a spatula fold in the sifted ingredients to the meringe using a J fold and continue folding for a total of about 8 strokes after it looks incorporated using the J fold macaronnner technique.  I can't really describe it here - its an art and you need the book!

Pipe one inch circles using a pastry bag and a half inch tip.  I made these a little big, something that I corrected with my next batch of macarons, so stay tuned.  Bake at 200 to dry for exactly 15 minutes, then raise the heat to 350 and continue for nine minutes.  Allow to cool before moving from the silicon.  My feet were a bit lopsided on these macarons because I didn't rotate the trays halfway through at the 350 temperature which is essential for even distribution of heat.  I improved this the second time around.

To make the ganache filling, bring the corn syrup, sour cream, and raspberry puree to boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat.  Pour over the chocolate in the food processor and wait a minute to let the chocolate melt completely.  Pulse until smooth, then add the butter and the rose compound, then the framboise and pulse until shiny.

Pour the ganache in a shallow pan and allow to cool to room temperature for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is pipeable and not too runny.  Pipe and pair the macarons.
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