Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pavlova with Gingered Rhubarb Curd and Strawberries







At long last, spring has sprung. It is finally warming up around these parts and you know what that means: rhubarb. Well, at least that's what I get excited about when the sun starts shining again after a long winter. I'm sorry to say that the barb I used for this recipe wasn't local, but I just could not wait any longer. As soon as I saw these greenhouse specimens at my favorite little produce stand I pounced. Then I sliced and simmered and enriched it with egg yolks and butter and was left with the dreamiest tangerine colored curd you ever did meet. I decided to use it to put my own spin on the Aussie classic, pavlova, so I lightened my curd with a bit of whipped cream before pouring it into a pillowy meringue shell and topping it with fresh, sliced strawberries. The end result is light and delicious and a wonderful way to welcome the season. If you don't feel like going the distance and making the whole pavlova do try to make this rhubarb curd at least once this spring, it is really fantastic and unlike any curd I've ever tried.

For the Meringue 
adapted from Gourmet

1c superfine granulated sugar
1T cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature
3T cold water
1t distilled white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 300 with rack in middle. Trace an approximately 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn parchment over and put on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
3. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks.
4. Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 Tbsp at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.
5. Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).
6. Gently spread meringue inside circle on parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than center (the “crater” is for curd and fruit). Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes (inside will still be marshmallow-like).
Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour.

For the Gingered Rhubarb Curd

3/4 pounds rhubarb (about 6 stalks)
1 inch piece of peeled ginger
1/4c water
1/4c sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2c sugar
zest from one lemon
2t lemon juice
3T butter, cut into chunks

1. Wash rhubarb and trim as little off the ends as possible. Cut rhubarb and ginger into 1-inch chunks.
2. In a small saucepan, heat rhubarb, ginger, 1/4c sugar, and water. Cook on medium heat until the rhubarb falls apart and there are no whole pieces left, adding water by the tablespoon if rhubarb sticks to the bottom of the pan.
3. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then put through a fine mesh sieve over a clean bowl
4. Put egg yolks, butter, remaining sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a double boiler and whisk to combine. When the sugar has dissolved, add the rhubarb puree by the spoonful, to temper the eggs. Continue stirring the mixture with a rubber spatula over the double boiler until it thickens, about 5 min.
5. Remove from heat and strain the curd to remove any lumps. Cover the curd with plastic wrap and chill completely before using.

yield about 2 cups, you may want to make extra because it is crazy good

To Assemble the Pavlova

1lb washed, hulled and sliced strawberries
1 c heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

1. Fold about 1/4 of the whipped cream into the rhubarb curd, then fill the meringue with the mixture and top with sliced strawberries. Serve additional whipped cream on the side.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carrot Cake







I've never really felt one way or another about carrot cake. I mean, I recognize it as a classic and all but I wouldn't really say that it was in my repertoire until I was challenged to a carrot cake cook off over a game of cards last spring. Well friends, I love a good competition and I really love hanging out with other folks who like to bake so I immediately accepted and imagined a big blue ribbon pinned to my chest. When the time came I tested and labored and fretted over the cake then over the frosting. I settled on a dairy and egg free cake (wacky I know) that was the moist, slightly spicy cake of my dreams. For the frosting, I knew that I wanted to go a little non-traditional because I've never really been a fan of the extreme sweetness of traditional cream cheese frosting. I turned to my favorite swiss buttercream with hopes that it's smooth texture and subtle sweetness would lend itself to the addition of cream cheese. I whipped up a batch and enriched it with some tangy cream cheese and the tiniest bit of lemon zest and my goodness. I had created a buttercream that tasted like fluffy whipped cheesecake, victory was mine! The day of the Carrot Caketacular came and I packed up my prize winner in a wicker basket, hopped on the subway and hoped for the best. Five cakes were offered up to the masses, votes were cast, fingers were crossed and no one was more shocked than me when my cake fetched second place. What?! Second Place?! It was a pretty narrow margin between me and #1, so I blame the raisins. I was the only one who used 'em and I guess there were a lot of raisin haters there that day. Not even my revolutionary frosting could save me.

You see that last photo up there? The hosts lovingly tied a frilly topped carrot to their buzzer to mark the spot, so cute!

Vegan Carrot Cake (Don't knock it til you try it)

2 1/4c flour
1c packed brown sugar
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1t ginger
1/2t freshly ground nutmeg
3/4t salt
1 1/2t baking soda
1/2t baking powder
1c plus 2T orange juice (room temp)
1/2c canola oil
1 1/2T apple cider vinegar
1T vanilla extract
1/2c golden raisins (or not, if you don't like em)
1c toasted and chopped pecans
2c peeled, grated carrots

Preheat oven to 350, grease and line 2 9'' pans with parchment paper

1. Add raisins to room temperature orange juice to soak while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the pecans
3. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Then stir in the orange juice with raisins, and carrots
4. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture all at once and fold gently to combine.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and bake for 20-25min or until a cake tester comes out clean.
6. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert on a rack to cool completely before assembly.


Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream (not vegan)
makes about 4 cups (enough for your cake, plus a little extra)

5 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
8oz unsalted butter, room temp
8oz cream cheese, room temp
1T vanilla extract
1/2t lemon zest

1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until no lumps remain, then blend in the vanilla and lemon zest.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (5-7min).
3. Using your whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until stiff glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled completely (up to 10ish minutes). If you get ansty and don't let the mixture cool completely you will end up with frosting soup and no one wants that. Don't get antsy.
4. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter/cream cheese mixture about 1/4c at a time and beat until smooth.

During this last step it is VERY possible that your frosting will 'break" and you will think you messed something up. Good news! You didn't! Mine breaks almost every time I make it too. All you have to do is turn up the speed on your mixer for a moment, until the mixture comes back together and then keep adding the butter mixture until your buttercream is smooth and creamy.

Did I mention that this frosting requires patience? It does, I really mean it, but most really good things require a little patience.

For a more traditional cream cheese frosting (that requires less patience), try this or for maple cream cheese frosting, check here. You really can't lose, anyway you shake it, cream cheese frosting is delicious.

To assemble the cake:

Peel the parchment paper from the layers and place one onto your serving platter or pedestal, domed side down. Scoop about 1 cup of frosting onto the cake layer and spread evenly. Place the other cake on top, domed side up for a more homestyle look, domed side down for a cleaner look. Cover the top and sides with a thin layer of frosting (a crumbcoat) and refrigerate for about 30 min. Pull the cake out and spread another, thicker layer of frosting on the top and sides. Put it back into the fridge if the frosting is really soft, but make sure to serve the cake at room temperature.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Whole Wheat Raspberry Walnut Muffins







Just in time for the weekend, I would like to present you this incredibly versatile and forgiving muffin recipe. The only catch is, you need a kitchen scale. I'm sure you lovers of baked good out there have and use your scales all of the time, but if you don't have one it is totally worth the dollar bills. I have a Salter model that cost about $30 at Macy's and it has survived in my kitchen for years despite many spills and drops and other various kitchen disasters that stem from having about 18 square inches of counter space. Don't even get me started on my barbie sized oven. Someday I will post some photos of my tiny New York kitchen so you can all feel bad for me. I kid, I kid, let's get back to the muffins. These wholesome treats can be adapted to use any flours, fat or milk you have on hand. I went with equal parts of whole wheat and all purpose flours, olive oil, almond milk and tossed in some frozen raspberries for color, walnuts for richness and crunch and a bit of orange zest for some citrusy zip. As long as you substitute the ingredients in equal weight you can go crazy, I am going to try a blueberry buckwheat version next.

Whole Wheat Raspberry Walnut Muffins
adapted from Gluten Free Girl, who adapted from Shuna Fish Lydon

350 grams flour (I used 175 grams whole wheat and 175 grams all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
180 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
300 grams milk
100 grams olive oil
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
zest of 1/2 an orange

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a muffin tin thoroughly or if you prefer, line with muffin cups.

1. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

2. Whisk together the sugar, zest eggs, milk, and olive oil until they are combined well. Add them to the dry ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients until the batter is almost fully combined. Add the frozen berries and walnuts, careful to not break up the berries too much.

3. Fill the muffin tins 3/4 full and bake until the muffins are browned with a bit of a crunch and a knife goes through cleanly, about 25 minutes to 35 minutes.

If you try these please share your variations in the comments, I'd love to hear your creative ideas.

Happy Friday!