Saturday, January 24, 2009

Channeling the Sun

Naked Cupcake, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

A few days ago my sweet mailman brought me tres cool cupcake stickers. He and his wife had visited Vancouver B.C. and stumbled across a cupcake store. Apparently he thought I'd like the labels on their boxes so much he requested a few to take home with him. I couldn't think of a better 'thank you' than a box of cupcakes.

I recently came across a recipe for coconut/apricot cake. And, since I recently re-discovered my love for apricots (and a jar of homemade preserves in the pantry), I was naturally excited to try this flavor combination. This recipe is adapted from Real Simple magazine December 2008, and I highly recommend it. It's a very simple, uber delicious recipe. The cake is light and moist. The apricot preserves impart the slightest tang and sweet. The original recipe was for a two layer cake, in between each layer they slathered apricot preserve. I didn't want to loose this effect, but I knew I didn't want to stuff the cupcakes either. So, as you can see above, I added a schmear below each dollop of frosting. The frosting itself can hardly be considered 'frosting' for 1 1/4 cup of whip cream (and a dab or sour cream) there's only 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar, not very sweet at all. However, the sweet cake, sweet preserve and the addition of toasted sweet shredded coconut all but makes up for it. The cake is moist, preserves sticky, frosting like a cloud and the crunch of the toasted coconut creates a bite out of this world! It's a very textural cupcake, which for this cake is over half the pleasure. I've never quite experienced anything like it. It's really, truly, amazing. Just as I was hoping it would be. Surely, this will become a go-to recipe for me.

Posted below is the original 'cake' recipe. To make cupcakes; fill standard cupcake papers 3/4 full, baked for about 18 minutes at 350. Top warm cupcakes with about 1 teaspoon of apricot preserve, then frost and sprinkle with coconut. I think these would be particularly lovely for a wedding or baby shower. A cheery cupcake. . . cheery enough to bring out the sun!

Recipe: Apricot & Coconut Cake

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups apricot preserves
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Heat oven to 350° F. Toast the coconut on a baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and 3/4 cup of the preserves. Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, mixing just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely on a rack.

Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream, sour cream, and confectioners' sugar to form stiff peaks. Sandwich the cakes with the remaining 1/2 cup of preserves. Frost with the cream mixture and press the coconut onto the sides.

Make-Ahead Tip: Make the cakes, wrap tightly, and store at room temperature for up to 2 days. Make the frosting and frost the cakes up to 4 hours before serving. Refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.

Boxed & Labeled, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

Birds Eye Boxed Up, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cooking Club : Color, Emotion, Ingredient

IMG_6300, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

Goodness me, this post has taken an awful long time for me to even think about getting to. I've been a very busy, busy bee. I'm always startled by the amount of time and effort being a student takes. It takes me about 8 weeks to get used to a new schedule and classes, and then a few weeks later it's over, and I've got a little break before the next quarter, then the whole thing starts all over again. Outside of school, I've had a lot on my mind and on "my plate", so to speak. I feel like I've been doing a whole lot of soul searching the last 6 months. My life has seemed like a turbulent storm of change, lots of people coming and going, I'm not a huge fan of change, I may have already mentioned this. Yet, I feel ready for a bigger change. You know when they speed up images of traffic, and it looks like one large, fast moving, caterpillar of lights? Life has felt a bit like that. Nothing profound, just lots of busy movement. It's hard to explain, and as I've realized recently in my english comp class, I'm no poet. Not even sort of/kind of. I should just get on with the food then, shouldn't I?

I loved this dinner, I couldn't profess my love of this dinner enough. Not necessarily all of the dishes that were made and consumed, but definitely the concept. Let me explain. I'm Top Chef obsessed. As a teenager and very young 20-something I was sick for a lot of reality tv (except for dancing and singing, oh and bachelor type shows. . . gag me). As I've gotten a tiny bit older I've really lost interest in other peoples drama. But I adore Top Chef. It's amazing. . . mostly because it's just so easy to be inspired by and critique food. Last season the contestants had a challenge in which they were given a color, emotion and an ingredient. They had to create a dish that featured all three cohesively. I was dying to try this myself. And what a better venue to do so then with my fellow cooking groupies? So, after our Christmas dinner we sat down with four bowls. We brainstormed 10 colors, 10 ingredients, and 10 emotions, write them on tiny slips of paper and proceeded to draw them, one by one, from the bowls. We also had a bowl of courses/dishes (we randomly draw our dishes for our next dinner, after each dinner). Not only did I want to try this concept myself, but I really wanted to see how others interpreted it, how they might be inspired by it.

So this is how it broke down, er, what we all drew:

Alcoholic Drink: Pink Smart Turnip
Appetizer: Yellow Domineering Pepper
Amuse Bouche: Purple Amorous Citrus
Starter: Red Happy Pasta
Side: Orange Thoughtful Broccoli
Side: Green Ferocious Squash
Side: White Fiesty Cheese
Entree: Blue Whimsical Fish
Dessert: Gold Sexy Pistachio

And here is what was made (so you can compare to the list above):

Alcoholic Drink: Raspberry Mead (no turnips, we decided it was best they be added to his other dish)
Appetizer (shown above): Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella, Roasted Yellow Peppers and Reduced Balsamic
Amuse Bouche (pictured below): Mini Marinated Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese and Citrus Sauce
Starter: Cajun Pasta with Barbequed Shrimp (I made homemade red pepper pasta, but it molded, odd, so I used a backup)
Side: Broccoli in Orange Sauce
Side: Acorn Squash stuffed with Turnips and assorted veggies
Entree: Balsamic Blueberry Salmon
Dessert: Pistachio Pana Cotta with Raspberry Gelee and a Gold Dusted Rose Petal

For the beet and crostini recipe check out fellow cooking clubbers blog: They were her dishes, and she's got an awesome post over at her blog that you can read. Both recipes were killer (in fact, the other night, Thomas and I had the crostini and a bottle of wine for dinner).

Beet Root., originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

Cajun Prawn Pasta, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

Blueberry Balsamic Salmon , originally uploaded by miss.mallory.