Thursday, December 18, 2008

Black Bottom Cupcakes

I enjoy cream cheese, and I enjoy cheesecake. These little beauties--breathtakingly delicious, if you're into that kind of thing.

Take 8 ounces of softened cream cheese... large, room-temperature egg....

...and a third-cup of sugar....

...and cream together in your mixer.

Finely chop two ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and add to the cream cheese. If you need to use chocolate chips, that's okay too.
Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, add one and a half cups of flour.... cup packed brown sugar...

...five tablespoons natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-process, although America's Test Kitchen says it makes no difference at all)... teaspoon of baking soda, and a quarter teaspoon of salt.
Whisk together, and make a well in the center.
Mix in one cup of water, one-third cup of vegetable oil, one tablespoon of vinegar, and one teaspoon of vanilla.
Divide the batter into the cupcakes, then dollop the cream cheese filling on top.

Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.

I definitely did NOT devour the missing cupcake ten minutes after it came out of the oven. They're freaking delicious. Enjoy!

Takes about an hour.
Makes 12 cupcakes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dinner rolls!

Tim and I went to his sister's for Thanksgiving, so I didn't really get to cook anything, and I definitely didn't get a fridge full of leftovers. So the Sunday after, we did our own little Thanksgiving dinner, and I made rolls. Behold! (This recipe makes approximately 40 rolls; feel free to halve the recipe if you need to.)

To begin, pour four cups of milk into a large pot. Add one cup of sugar and one cup of vegetable oil. Stir. Then, scald the mixture (heat it up over medium-low until right before it boils, then turn off the burner). Then, walk away. The mixture needs to cool down to lukewarm before we do anything else. Go fold laundry. Build a snowman. Mow the lawn. Knit a sweater. And come back when the side of the pan is comfortably warm.

Add four cups of flour...
And five teaspoons (two packages) of active dry yeast.
Add in another four cups of flour.
Stir some more.

(I don't have pictures for this next part, because the process happened over a couple of days and I forgot I was taking pictures.)

Allow to rise for an hour or so, covered. Add one more cup of flour, one heaping teaspoon of baking powder, one teaspoon of baking soda, and two tablespoons of salt. At this point, the dough is good to go. You can keep it in the fridge for a day or two before you make the rolls, as long as you remember that it's still going to rise and you'll have to punch it down every now and then.

When you're ready to make the rolls, butter a couple of muffin tins.

Then pinch off pieces of dough, roll into balls, and put three balls in each hole.

Like so. Let them rise for another couple of hours, and when they look big and puffy enough, bake at 400F for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

And enjoy. These suckers keep well enough, but just make sure you store them in an airtight container so they don't get stale and rock-hard.

Takes about four hours, what with all the rise time.
Makes about 40.
Difficulty: 2.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Irish" Beef Stew

First, my issue with the name: Apparently, the only thing that makes this stew "Irish" is the inclusion of Guinness. Especially since the original source notes that the recipe came to her by way of a friend who'd picked it up while vacationing in Italy. Last time I checked, Italy isn't exactly close to Ireland. Anyway...

"Irish" Beef Stew
Olive oil
A pound to a pound and a half of stew beef
Six large garlic cloves, minced
Six cups beef stock or broth
One cup Guinness
One cup red wine
Two tablespoons tomato paste
One tablespoon sugar
One tablespoon thyme
One tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Two bay leaves (I didn't use any)
Two tablespoons butter (optional)
Two medium-large potatoes, peeled and chunked
One large onion, chopped
Two carrots, chopped
Salt and pepper
Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and brown beef on all sides over medium-high heat.
Add garlic and sauté one minute. Add red wine....
...tomato paste, thyme, sugar, Worcestershire sauce....
...and beef stock (I only had about two cups, so that's all I used). Stir, bring to a boil (add bay leaves if you've got them), reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally. Mmmm...look at all that glorious thyme.

Now, you can do one of two things. Thing one: Melt butter in a skillet and
sauté vegetables until golden, about fifteen or twenty minutes. Add to the stew after it's simmering hour is up, and simmer uncovered for another 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
Or, if you've got time to kill and can afford to let the stew simmer for a lot longer than an hour and forty minutes, thing two is for you: When you feel like it (about an hour before you're going to serve the stew), go chunk the vegetables and toss them straight into the pot. Give them a good stir, and simmer uncovered for the rest of however long you've got. (Let them simmer for at least an hour, otherwise they run the risk of staying crunchy.) Then sprinkle with parsley and serve.

I didn't actually eat the stew. After cooking it all afternoon and smelling it and looking at it, it just wasn't what I wanted for dinner. So I had leftover mac 'n' cheese while the boys ate the stew. They liked it.

Difficulty: 2
Takes about two hours
Serves 4 or more.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Creamy Herbed Potatoes

It's time, once again, to talk about my strange relationship with potatoes. I don't like them unless they're so fried that they no longer resemble potatoes (i.e. potato chips and really crispy french fries). But every now and again, I find a recipe for potatoes that sounds delicious. Like Crash Hot Potatoes. Sounded fantastic. And they pretty much were. And now, there's this recipe that I stumbled across last week. It sounded amazing, so I made it. And it was pretty tasty....but I still don't like potatoes.

Creamy Herbed Potatoes
Difficulty: 3
Takes about half an hour, plus bake time.

You will need: at least two clean russet potatoes (more if you're cooking for more than four people), butter, cream cheese, heavy cream, milk, salt and pepper, herbs, parmesan cheese, onion.
First, dice an onion and remove it to a plate or bowl. Or if your cutting board is big enough, just leave it there. (I only used half an onion because not everyone around these parts really likes onion, but I couldn't even taste it in the finished product, so next time I make it I'll definitely be using a whole onion.)
Then, slice your potatoes as thin as you can possibly go. I registered for a mandolin after seeing this recipe, but we're not getting married for another six months, so I made do with a knife. My potatoes were varied in their thinness, but I think it worked out alright.Next, melt a stick of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. (If you're only using two potatoes, like me, reduce this to about half a stick of butter. Otherwise....well, you'll see.)Then toss in the onion and cook it up a little, about three minutes.

Add in the cream cheese (not all in one huge lump, it'll take longer to melt) in chunks, and stir around to get it to melt.
Next add three-quarters of a cup of heavy cream, and half a cup to one cup of milk, depending on how many potatoes you used (I used two potatoes and a half cup of milk).See how it's still all yellow? That's because I used more butter than I should have and it floated all up to the top. Stir that sauce until it's white. And while you're at it, add a hefty amount of salt and pepper. Remember: you're salting not just for the sauce, but for the potatoes, too. I think I ended up using about two tablespoons, and it was just a little weensy bit on the salty side. So salt it, taste it, and salt it some more. You'll want it to taste a little extra salty. Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 350F.Once it's all good, reduce the heat to low and stir in your herbs. Use whatever you've got. I used chives, rosemary, and parsley. If I'd been thinking, I would have used thyme, too. A teaspoon of each should do it. Stir it in and remove it from the heat.

Prepare a baking dish and toss the potatoes into it. And don't put the pan on top of your laptop. That's a silly thing to do.Pour the sauce over the top of the potatoes and sprinkle some parmesan on top.

Slide that baby into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes at 350F, until bubbly and beautiful.Dig in!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chocolate Pound Cake

It was my birthday on Tuesday, and because Tim knows me better than I know myself, he knew that I wanted a digital camera. It's not that I didn't know I wanted one, but I had completely forgotten about it. And now I've gone hog wild taking pictures of all kinds of things. AND, for the first time ever, all the pictures for this recipe are MINE, and I took them myself. You're welcome to pirate them, but if you do, you have to give me a shout out and tell people to come read my recipes. Without further ado, I present Chocolate Pound Cake!
You will need: Flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, sour cream, milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, honey, water, sugar, unsalted butter, eggs, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Things you should not put in the cake: dish soap, Tim's water bottle, and sponges.

First, prepare a loaf pan with butter or non-stick spray and flour, tapping out the excess flour.

Whisk together two and a quarter cups of flour, one teaspoon baking POWDER, three-quarters of a teaspoon of kosher salt, and one-quarter teaspoon of baking SODA in a medium bowl. I used a fork. In a small bowl, whisk together half a cup of milk and half a cup of sour cream. (The original recipe called for whole milk, but I used 2% because I don't believe in buying something for a recipe if I'm never going to use the rest of it, ever.) Again, I used a fork for the whisking. Yes, I own a whisk, but I didn't feel like using it. Shut up. Next, sift a quarter cup of cocoa powder into a small bowl. I don't have a sifter, so I dumped it in and then used a fork to spread it out a little. Hey, I did the best I could. Add a quarter cup of honey and two tablespoons of boiling water to the cocoa and whisk until smooth. Who can guess if I used a fork to whisk it?
Dump two sticks of room temperature unsalted butter into your mixing bowl with three-quarters of a cup of sugar. (I see no reason you couldn't do this by hand if you don't have a shiny new mixer like me.)

Beat until light and fluffy. Add two eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Then beat in a teaspoon of vanilla. Add in the cocoa mixture....
And beat until smooth. Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 350F.
Next, add in half of the flour and beat until smooth.
Then add in half of the sour cream/milk, and beat until smooth. Repeat with the other half of each.
Stir in half a cup (or more) of chocolate chips and pour into your pan. Smooth the top. Bake at 350F for about an hour and fifteen minutes, until a tester comes out clean. (The original recipe said an hour and eight minutes, and my cake took closer to a hour and twenty minutes. I'd say check it at 5 or 10 minute intervals after an hour.)

This recipe only gets three stars from me because I didn't really like it. It's not quite chocolate-y enough or sweet enough for my tastes. But for those of you who like their chocolate a bit on the subtle side, this is for you. Or maybe up the cocoa quotient.

Difficulty: 3.
Takes about 45 minutes of prep, plus bake time.