Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Tale of Two King Cakes


King Cake:  The official food of the Carnival season.  Not to be eaten before Twelfth Night or after Mardi Gras, this sweet treat takes on many forms: bread-like, pastry-like, even donut-like!  In this area of the country, you can find it everywhere--from bakeries to donut shops.  Even Wal-mart!  My favorite variety comes from Keller's Bakery in Youngsville, LA.  It's soft, gently sweet, and almost like a breakfast danish.  With flavor varieties such as strawberry cream cheese, blueberry cream cheese, and amaretto nut, there's something to please every palate.  Yum!

After much questioning from my co-workers about when I'd ever make them a King Cake and the resulting disbelief when I admitted I'd never baked one, I decided that this year would finally be the year!  I turned to my trusty ole' Internets for help.  Many of the King Cake recipes I found online rely on a brioche dough as the base, but I decided to go with a cinnamon roll dough posted by Carrie of Fields of Cake.  I've heard nothing but good things about her recipe, and I've been itching to try it out for some time now.  The dough was rich, easy to work with, and just sweet enough.  For the fillings, I used the ones that accompany the King Cake recipe by Andrea Meyers.  

I much preferred the blueberry cream cheese one to the cinnamon one, as did my co-workers.  The cinnamon filling contains a fair bit of flour, which kept the filling from oozing out in a liquid mess but ultimately baked up too firm.  As I learned from my first King Cake attempt, you cannot use a standard cinnamon roll filling (butter, sugar, cinnamon), because it will inevitably end in a total smoking oven failure--no matter how sure you are that you've sealed off the seams!  :(

Keep in mind that the cream cheese & fruit filling I have listed below is only enough for one cake (the dough makes 2), so if you want both to be the same flavor you'll need to double up on the recipe.  This recipe does take some time to complete, but much of that is dough rising time (there are 3!)--so don't start this in the evening unless you plan on staying up late!  Plan on about 6-8 hours, start to finish, depending on your kitchen temperature and yeast activity.


King Cake (makes 2 large cakes)
Dough Adapted from Fields of Cake; Fillings from Andrea Meyers

CAKE:
 3½ oz. pkg. instant French vanilla pudding mix
2 cups cold whole milk
½ cup melted unsalted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1½ tsp. salt
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. cardamom
6 cups flour
4½ tsp. instant yeast

CREAM CHEESE FILLING (enough for 1 cake)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbl. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup fruit filling (I used blueberry preserves)

CINNAMON FILLING (enough for 2 cakes.  I used the entire amount for 1 cake, and it was too much--see picture above)
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup flour
2 Tbl. cinnamon
½ cup butter, melted

GLAZE:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla 
2 Tbl. milk

TOPPING:
Green, purple, and yellow/gold colored sugars
You'll also need 2 plastic baby figurines

In a large bowl prepare pudding mix with milk according to package directions.  Add butter, eggs, salt, sugar and cardamom; mix to blend well.  Gradually add flour and yeast; transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes.

Place dough in a large greased bowl; cover and let rise until doubled.

Punch dough down and allow to double a second time.  Meanwhile, prepare fillings.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line two large rimmed cookie sheets with parchment or foil. 

Divide dough into two pieces.  Roll dough out one piece at a time to a long rectangle, about 8" x 30".  Spread with filling, leaving a 1" border on three sides and a 2" border on one of the long sides.  Starting with the side opposite the 2" border, roll up tightly.  Pinch seam to seal.  Carefully transfer roll to one of the prepared sheet pans, seam side down.  Form into an oval, tucking one end of the roll into the other and pinching shut.  Cover lightly and allow to rise slightly (about 30 minutes).

Repeat with remaining half of dough.  Bake cakes in a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and baked through.  Some leakage may occur.  Cool completely.

Spread cakes with glaze and sprinkle with colored sugars.  Hide a plastic baby figurine under each cake.  When ready to serve, remind your guests that one of the pieces will have a baby in it (choking and/or the breaking of teeth is bad!).  The lucky person who gets the baby is responsible for bringing the next King Cake!

Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Espresso Cupcakes



Cinnamon + Dulce de Leche + Espresso: I had this flavor combo floating around my idea bin long before I set out to make my own batch of dulce de leche.  Cinnamon and dulce de leche play very well together, as do dulce de leche and coffee.  Cinnamon and coffee also pair nicely, so a combination of all three could only result in pure and utter deliciousness.  The most difficult part was deciding which flavor would go into each component of the cupcake.  I finally decided upon pure dulce de leche sandwiched between a cinnamon cupcake base and an espresso buttercream crown.  Result?  Amazing.  Without a doubt, one of best things I've made so far.

The cupcake is based on the "Yellow Butter Cake" recipe from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America.  Wow, folks.  I think I've finally found the recipe to replace my yellow and white cake mix cupcakes.  It's soft and buttery, with a delicately fine crumb.  In other words, absolute perfection.   They don't even need frosting, but since this is a special occasion* I figured I'd go all-out and top it with THREE toppings, including a chocolate football!

* The Saints winning the NFC Championship, naturally.  Superbowl XLIV celebration treats coming soon...

 



Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Espresso Cupcakes (makes 36)

Adapted from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America

Cupcake:
3½ cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbl. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. cinnamon 
1 cup unsalted butter, diced & at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, divided
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla extract

14 oz. can prepared Dulce de Leche (tutorial & recipe here)
Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe follows)

  
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place paper liners in 36 wells of three muffin tins.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add butter and ½ cup milk.  Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 4 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl as needed.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, egg whites, remaining ½ cup milk and vanilla extract until combined.  Add to the batter in 3 additions, mixing for 2 minutes on medium after each addition.  Scrape down the bowl between additions.

Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins.  Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched in the center.  Cool completely on wire racks.

Spread about 1 heaping teaspoon of Dulce de Leche on each cupcake.  Top with a generous swirl of Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream. 


Espresso Swiss Meringue Buttercream (frosts about 36 cupcakes)

4 egg whites
1¼ cup sugar
2 Tbl. espresso powder 
1 cup unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 Tbl. vanilla extract

Place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl; whisk to combine.  Place bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water (double boiler set-up).  Heat egg white mixture to 160°F, whisking constantly.  The mixture will become thin and foamy as you approach 160°F.

Pour the heated egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add espresso powder.  Beat on high speed with the whisk attachment for 7-9 minutes, until stiff peaks form and mixture has cooled.  The mixture MUST be cooled to room temperature before proceeding.  

With the mixer running at medium speed, add the butter, 2 Tablespoons at a time.  Allow the butter to incorporate before adding more.  As you add butter, the appearance of the mixture will go from a fluffy meringue to a thin, cake batter-like consistency.  Once all the butter has been incorporated, increase the speed to medium high and beat until an emulsion forms and the mixture has transformed into a thick & smooth icing.  (How long this will take depends on the starting temperature of both the egg white mixture and the butter pieces, so be patient.  Pay attention as the mixture is whipping--you'll hear a definite difference in sound when the buttercream is ready.)  Add vanilla extract and beat on low speed for a minute or two to incorporate and to reduce any air bubbles.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tutorial: Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche.  Sweet.  Sticky.  Creamy.  Full of rich caramel-y dairy goodness.  Translated literally, this "candy of milk" or "milk candy" is a staple in many Mexican, Latin American and South American countries--most notably Argentina.  According to the Argentina Travel Blog, it's something of a national obsession:

"If beef is the national dish of Argentina, dulce de leche is undeniably the country’s sweet treat -- the average Argentinean eats 6 pounds each year.  Dulce de leche is a creamy, silky dessert made from sweetened milk.  It tastes something like caramel, without the syrupy aftertaste.  The texture is smoother and fuller than caramel but not grainy or dry like peanut butter." (Link)
Six Pounds???  With stats like that, you KNOW it's gotta be some good stuff.  If you've ever had dulce de leche, you already know how heavenly it is.  Dulce de leche may be found in specialty stores or on the shelves of many grocery stores in areas with a large Hispanic population, but it's pretty simple to make at home yourself.  There are many methods to choose from:

+ Cooking down milk & sugar, with constant stirring
+ Cooking down condensed milk over a double boiler, again with stirring
+ Baking condensed milk in a pan set in a water bath until caramelized
+ Boiling unopened cans of condensed milk, covered in water for several hours**
+ Boiling unopened cans of condensed milk in a pressure cooker (yikes!) 
+ Heating unopened cans of condensed milk overnight in a slow cooker

** This one can be extremely dangerous if not done properly.  The water level must be constantly maintained, lest it drop too low...potentially leading to a HOT & sticky explosion.  With shrapnel.  Of course, dulce de leche has been prepared this way in some homes for many years without incidentBut why take your chances?  If you choose this method, please do so at your own risk :(

This tutorial will cover the last method listed: The Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche Method.  I found it on A Year of Slow Cooking and chose this method for the following reasons:

+ No stirring involved
+ It can cook while you sleep
+ Much safer than boiling
+ You can make as many cans as your slow cooker will hold (yes!)

To get started, you'll need some cans of condensed milk.  I hit a great sale on store brand condensed milk: 99 cents a can!  Generic or store brands may be your best bet here.  I've heard that some of the name brand cans have a plasticky coating on the inside, which may or may not melt during the cooking process.  If you're unsure, open your can and pour the condensed milk into a canning or Mason jar.  Cap it tightly and proceed as usual.  (A benefit of doing it in the jar is being able to see how far the milk has caramelized.  The downside?  Shelf life is much shorter, while dulce de leche cooked in its own can will last at least as long as the expiration date on the can.)

Remove labels from the cans.  Place a piece of foil in the bottom of your slow cooker insert (to avoid getting any rust rings or scratches), and place cans on top.  



Fill slow cooker insert with water, making sure to cover cans completely.  Place the lid on top and turn the switch to the LOW setting.  Set an alarm clock for 8 hours.  You might hear some gurgling during this time--don't panic.  Bubbles are trying to escape from under the piece of foil.  If you're only making one can and your piece of foil is large, the bubbles can knock the can on its side--that's okay too, as long as the entire can is under water.



To safely remove the hot cans from the hot water, you'll need to make some grippy tongs ( a trick I learned from Alton Brown) with a pair of tongs and two rubber bands:




Once 8 hours have passed, get ready to remove the dulce de leche from the hot water.  Have a hot pad ready on your counter.  Hold your grippy tongs in your dominant hand, and have an oven mitt on the other.  In case of slippage, you can catch the can before it splashes back into the HOT water or falls onto your foot.  (Do as I say, not as I do:  I am NOT left-handed, but I needed my right hand for picture taking.  So...weaker hand holding grippy tongs, with no protected hand for back-up.  Not the safest situation but I'm doing it for you, dear readers!)   

Very carefully get a firm grip on each can and remove from slow cooker, placing on hot pad to cool:



Now the hard part: letting them cool.  Leave. Them. Be.  Open them now and you'll have hot dulce de leche oozing out faster than you can say "melted fingers."  This will take several hours, so go to the mall, read a book, take the kids to a movie--whatever will distract you long enough to keep you from breaking into those cans before they're ready!  With this method you can set the cans to cook overnight, then remove them in the morning before you head out.  They'll be completely cooled and ready to go when you get home from work!  

Here's how the finished product looks.  For comparison, I put one of the cans back into the slow cooker and continued to cook it for another 2 hours, for a total of 10 hours.  The longer you cook dulce de leche, the darker and richer it will become as its caramel flavor intensifies.  



I liked both versions equally.  The 8-hour can was smooth, creamy, with a nice dairy caramel flavor.  It was spreadable but definitely not pourable.  I would imagine a 6 or 7-hour cook time would produce dulce de leche with a more sauce-like consistency. The 10-hour can was thicker and stickier, but still creamy and intensely flavored.  So there you have it, folks!  Dulce de leche, made easily (and in large quantities!) right at home.  If you give this a try (or if you're a dulce de leche veteran and have any pointers for me), please let me know how it turns out!  Be sure to return on Thursday to see what how I used up that 8-hour dulce de leche :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Girl, Paula: Poultry




This week's My Girl, Paula: Poultry theme gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a recipe I've been eyeing for a while--Mexican Chicken.  I took the opportunity to substitute lower fat ingredients when possible, and I threw in a handful of cilantro, jalapeño, and green onion to liven things up.  Maybe it's my slight tendency towards OCD, but I just couldn't bring myself to place those round tortillas in a rectangular pan!  I baked mine up in two 8" foil pans instead, and stashed one in the freezer for later in the month.


Mexican Chicken (serves 8-10)
Paula Deen's original recipe found here 

1 can 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken soup
1 can 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1 can Rotel® tomatoes & chiles, undrained
2 green onions, sliced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
finely diced jalapeño, to taste
4 cups leftover chopped cooked chicken (can use a rotisserie chicken) 
8 (8-inch) Hi-fiber flour tortillas
8 oz. package shredded 2% milk Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly spray two 8" round pans with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, combine three cans of soup.  Stir in tomatoes & chiles, green onions, cilantro, and jalapeño, if using.  Mix in chopped chicken pieces.

Begin layering in pans, starting with tortillas.  Alternate layers of tortillas with chicken filling, ending with tortillas.  Top with shredded cheese.  Bake uncovered in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Key Lime Pie: Clean & Simple



Tomorrow, January 23rd, is National Pie Day!  Visit the American Pie Council's website to learn more, join the Council, or get info about the National Pie Championships (to be held in April 2010). Browse through recipes while you're there, then get ready to fire up those ovens!  Or not.  You could go the no-bake route like I did with my key lime pie.  Unlike my previous attempt at key lime pie, this one requires no egg yolks (and therefore no cooking)--allowing the clean, tart flavor of lime to shine through.  I actually prefer this version to the original because it is lighter on the tongue, and also because I like my citrus desserts extra citrusy.  The filling is technically a double recipe, so feel free to cut it in half...or make two pies!  


Key Lime Pie  (serves 12)

2 cans (14 oz. each) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup key lime juice, fresh or bottled
1 prepared pie crust (I used a Nilla® wafer crust)
Whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping, optional

In a large bowl, whisk condensed milk and key lime juice together until smooth and combined.  Pour into pie crust and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.  Garnish or serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Moving Day

Well folks, I've gone and moved!  Visitors to this site will be redirected to:  http://www.kitchenkoala.net/  Very soon, I'll be losing the "Fuzzykoala's Caketastic Adventures" name and converting to "Kitchen Koala", so be on the lookout.  Please update your bookmarks accordingly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Girl, Paula: Anything Goes!



Peanut butter.  Sugar.  Egg.  Vanilla.  Using only these four ingredients, you too can make cookie magic.  These Magical Peanut Butter Cookies were made using a baking sugar substitute (such as Splenda® for Baking) in place of real sugar for a lower-calorie treat that's just as tasty as its standard counterpart.  I skipped the extra sprinkle of sugar on top because I inadvertently added 1 cup sugar substitute to the dough instead of only 1 cup (not good at reading recipes through before starting!).  When you're done here, please visit the My Girl, Paula! blog to see what our other members whipped up this week!

In other news, I also made a healthier (and vegan!) version of everyone's favorite cookie a few weeks back.  The recipe for Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies may be found in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I'm not sure I'd make these again.  They were a bit too healthy tasting; not exactly what I'm looking for when that cookie craving strikes.  Don't get me wrong--they were still edible, but I could totally taste the wheat and soy. To be fair, the recipe does call for almond milk and NOT soy milk...but I did the swap because that's what I had on hand.  If you're looking to replace your standard chocolate chip cookie recipe (the "back of bag" one, for example) with this one, you won't be fooling anyone.  I'm just sayin'.  People will notice.  I'm hoping for better luck with this recipe from the book.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Progress Report



As some of you may know, I'm participating in RecipeGirl's Ten in 10: Ten Weeks to Healthy in 2010 Challenge.  Let's see how I've been doing on each of my goals...

+ Cut back on Diet Coke - I've been doing really well here, limiting myself to two cans a day.  Ideally I'd like to get down to 1 a day (or less), but let's just take baby steps here.  I knew from the onset this would be the hardest goal for me.  There were two days when I had more than two--those were days I had meals at restaurants and ordered a Diet Coke with my meal.

 + Drink more water - Definitely doing well here.  With Diet Coke consumption down, this goal came naturally.  Besides water and Diet Coke, the only other beverage I consume is soy milk.

 + Eat more: fruits, veggies, and whole grains - Um...work in progress.  I'm eating more veggies for sure, and fruits too--but not anywhere close to what is recommended. 

 + Get more sleep - Again, a work in progress.  I'm averaging about 6 hours a night, working towards a goal of 7 hours of sleep each night.  We'll see how this goes though, because of my last goal:

 + Hit the gym 3-4 x a week - I am a morning workout person.  This means getting up before dawn, which makes getting decent amounts of sleep potentially problematic.  Over the holidays, I got out of my pre-work workout routine and it's been difficult getting back into the swing of things.  Week 1 the gym saw me ZERO times.  Week 2: Three times.  I need to be both more active and more consistent. 
 
 
If you're interested in learning more about the challenge, want to join in, or follow along with our progress, please visit Lori's Recipe Girl site!  There are plenty of healthy recipes there for you to try out as well.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ice Cream Week: Day Five


All right folks, it's the moment we've all been waiting for: the Pièce de Résistance of Ice Cream Week.  Orange. Marmalade. Ice. Cream.  Without a doubt it is one of the tastiest and most addictive things I've ever eaten.  Definitely Top 5, right up there with Pioneer Woman's Lasagna and the to-die-for Jacqueline Le Veaux pizza at Dean-O's.  Something magical happens when orange meets creamy vanilla...the melding of the two flavors produces something greater than the sum of its parts (pardon the cliché!).  It's the stuff dreams are made of!  This ice cream tastes like a grown-up version of the creamsicle, made extra delicious by the orange peels and liqueur (What's not to like?).  It's quick to put together since it doesn't require any cooking or chilling before freezing.  But the best part? It stays soft even after staying the freezer for a while.  You can dig right in without bending up all your spoons!  :)




Marmalade Ice Cream   (makes about 1 quart)
From The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein

1¼ cups orange marmalade
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbl. orange liqueur or syrup
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, combine the marmalade, vanilla, and liqueur or syrup.  Mix well.  Stir in the half-and-half and cream.  Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

When finished, the ice cream will be very soft but ready to eat.  Although this ice cream will not freeze had, you can transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze to firm up a little more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ice Cream Week: Day Four



Since many of us are trying to be more conscientious about what we eat, I'm sharing a lower fat frozen treat with you today: Banana Sorbet.  The recipe is from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein--the only ice cream book I own, and probably the only I'll ever need.  It's jam-packed with recipes for ice cream, sorbets, granitas, and a few yogurt ice creams too!  I decided upon banana sorbet because I had two jars of banana baby food in my pantry, purchased because I needed the empty jars to store some bulk spices I picked up at The Fresh Market.  Since the recipe calls for cooking then pureeing bananas, I saw the perfect opportunity to cheat a bit and use up some of that baby food.  The end result was quite delicious--sweet, light, and perfectly banana-y.  Stay tuned for another ice cream recipe tomorrow; I'm closing out Ice Cream Week with my favorite recipe so far :)  Ice Cream Week II is definitely in the plans...

 


Banana Sorbet (makes about 1 quart)
From The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein

cup sugar
½ cup water
2 Tbl. light corn syrup
1 cup milk
1 lb. peeled bananas, broken into thirds (about 4 large bananas)**
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup crème de banana liqueur or banana syrup (optional)

Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.  Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Raise the heat and boil without stirring, for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

Add the milk and bananas to the sugar syrup.  Return to a simmer and cook uncovered until the bananas are very soft and fragrant.  This will take 5 to 10 minutes.  The milk may look foamy.

Let the banana mixture cool slightly, then puree the bananas and syrup in a blender or food processor.  If necessary, do this in 2 or 3 batches.  Stir in the vanilla and banana liqueur.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled banana puree, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  When finished, the sorbet will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

**I cheated a bit here and used two 6 oz. jars of banana baby food and one large mashed banana, skipping the pureeing step.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help for Haiti

We continue to pray for those affected by the earthquake that devastated the nation of Haiti yesterday, and we can't help but feel deeply saddened and called to step forward to help.  While it's not possible for all of us to physically be there to aid in disaster relief, we can still help out through monetary means.  Food, water, medical supplies, and emergency personnel are in dire need--but they can only get there through the generosity of people like you and me.  It is a sad truth that tragedies such as this can bring out the worst in people...there WILL be scams out there so please be careful about where you're sending your money.  Here are some reputable sites you can visit to learn more about how you can lend a helping hand:

Ice Cream Week: Day Three



It's Day Three of Ice Cream Week here at the Fuzzykoala Cake Company, and I'm pleased to bring you another taste of the tropics: Toasted Coconut Ice Cream.  This is another recipe from Bruce Weinstein's The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, which I received from my sister as an early Christmas present in November :)  If you don't already own a copy, go out and buy one!  Not only is it filled with tons of great recipes, but each one has several variations and are smaller yield recipes--which means you can make lots of different flavors without taking up ALL your freezer space.  Believe me, you'll want to try them all!

Did you know you can toast small amounts of coconut in the microwave oven?  Just spread the coconut in a single layer on a plate and set your microwave for a few minutes...but DON'T walk away!  Watch it like a hawk, and when you start to see some golden brown developing, stop the microwave.  Give the coconut a good stir, then continue to heat.  Repeat the heat-stop-stir process until the coconut is as toasty as you'd like.  Easy!  And no heating up your oven for a small task!




Coconut Ice Cream (makes about 1½ quarts)
From The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein

½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup half-and-half
1½ cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract

 Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Spread the coconut on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Place in the hot oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the coconut turns a light brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool. 

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the cornstarch and salt.  Set aside.

Combine the half-and-half with the coconut milk in a heavy medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Remove from the heat and slowly beat the hot liquid into the eggs and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the toasted coconut, cream, and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Come On, Get Happy



The ever-sweet Tracy at Sugarcrafter has awarded me the Happy 101 Award, and I'm so...HAPPY that she considers me a blogger who puts a little "happy" in her day!  Thank you, Tracy!  :)  Please visit Sugarcrafter and show her some love!  You'll find plenty of great recipes, many with "in progress" photos so you can see the different stages as you follow along her recipes.  One of my favorite things about her blog is how clean and organized it is!  I could only dream of working towards that for my blog this year.

Here's what I'm supposed to do:

  1. Copy the award image into a post.
  2. List 10 things that make you happy.
  3. Tag 10 bloggers who brighten your day.
  4. Put in a link to their blogs.
  5. Notify the award receivers.
  6. Recipients should link back to the sender's blog.
 It wasn't easy to narrow down my list to just 10 things that make me happy, but here they are (in no particular order):
  • Spending time with my family, especially when all the cousins are there for the holidays. 
  • Being a part of a wonderful Church community.
  • Growing in my faith.
  • The smell of freshly cut grass on a cool and sunny spring day.
  • Chubby babies, with all their cheek chub and "rolls."
  • Singing loudly in my car--but only when there are no passengers.
  • Goofy but family-friendly t-shirts, especially the one I got from my orthodontist with the words "Professional Grill Repair" superimposed over a bbq grill. :)
  • Cuteness.  Especially in animal form.
  • Baking and sharing sweet treats.
  • NOT getting shocked by everything I touch in the winter (doesn't happen often, but it sure makes me happy when it does!
Aaand, since Tracy kinda 'sorta' bent the rules and passed the award on to 11 bloggers *gasp!* (I was #11!), I'm kinda 'sorta' bending the rules here too: I'm not passing this award along to 10 blogs because...not all the sites I'm going to list below will be blogs run by a single person.  Some aren't blogs at all.  These are places I like to frequent online--my happy havens amidst all the nastiness you can find on the interwebs.  I hope visiting these sites will brighten your day as well!

1...Bento for Kidlet - The 'most awesomest' bento lunches for kids of all ages!
2...Cut Out and Keep - Craft tutorials galore.  Come here to learn and/or share.
3...Cute Overload - 'Nuff said.
4...Epicute - The Cute Food Blog.
5...Etsy - "Your place to buy & sell all things handmade™ "
6...I Can Has Cheezburger - Cat pictures...with captions.  See below.
7...LollyChops - Crafts! Templates, downloads, and much more!
8...Pretty Pretty Yum Yum - Colorful photo blog of pretty and/or yummy items!
9...SITS (The Secret is in The Sauce) - Blog recognition and comment support
10...Super Cute Kawaii - "Your daily dose of handmade cuteness and Japanese kawaii."


Happy Cat, aka The One That Started it All. (Link)

Ice Cream Week: Day Two



If Old Man Winter has you down, turn your thoughts to sunnier times with a nice helping of Key Lime Ice Cream.  Tart, rich, and refreshing, this recipe is tastes remarkably like key lime pie.  And it's no wonder--the ingredient list is nearly the same.  For a more authentic experience, throw in some graham cracker crust chunkies and you'll be set!  Better yet, serve up scoops of this ice cream in miniature graham cracker crusts for an uber-cute presentation.  Stay tuned for three more tasty ice cream recipes this week!




Key Lime Ice Cream (makes about 1 quart)
From The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein

1½ cups heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup key lime juice

Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.  Slowly beat the hot cream into the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the sweetened condensed milk and key lime juice.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the cold custard well, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice ceram, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ice Cream Week: Day One



Thanks to my lovely sister, I'm the proud owner of an ice cream maker (she was also responsible for getting that mini donut pan under the Christmas tree for me!).  Oh, the possibilities!  This opens up a whole new realm of treats to dream up... and all without baking too!  Unless of course I bake up some cookies, cake, or brownies to crumble up and throw into the mix.  Hmm..... 

Anyway, to celebrate my new kitchen toy I'm having Ice Cream Week here at the Fuzzykoala Cake Company.  It's cold outside (even here in South Louisiana!), but it's never too cold for ice cream!  Cuddle up on the couch with your Snuggie™ and ice cream bowl/cup/cone/trough.  Be on the lookout for an ice cream recipe each day this week (Monday-Friday)!



Mint Cookies & Cream Ice Cream (makes about 1 quart)
From The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein

¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbl. cornstarch
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. peppermint extract
6 drops green food coloring (optional)
½ cup crushed chocolate sandwich cookies*

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the eggs until thickened and pale yellow.  Beat in the cornstarch and set aside.

Bring the half-and-half to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan.  Slowly beat the hot half-and-half into the eggs and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream, peppermint extract, and food coloring, if using.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Add ½ cup crushed chocolate sandwich cookies to the machine when the ice cream is semifrozen.  Allow the machine to mix in the cookies.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours. 

*For a cleaner (greener) look, place crushed cookies in a sieve and shake out the excess dust.  I forgot to do this. 

Minis for Munchin'


 Chocolate Chip Cookies, Fauxstess Cupcakes & Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

Nothing says "party!" like miniature treats.  Don't believe me?  Think about the last time you had some: cocktail smokies, meatballs, finger sandwiches, mini quiche or petit fours.  It wasn't Tuesday night dinner with the family, was it?  Didn't think so.  When you need to nibble on something while trying to balance a plastic plate, napkin, fork and beverage (all the while trying to be graceful, trying to avoid dumping your whole plate on the host's new carpet and/or embarrassing yourself in front of that guy/gal you're hoping to impress), small foods are the perfect solution.  Small desserts are even better, because there's room to sample one of each!

Recipes:

Chocolate Chip Cookies - I made 48 miniature cookies with a quarter batch of dough. Make friends with your digital kitchen scale and calculator. ♥

Fauxstess Cupcakes - Using this recipe (can use regular milk instead of soy), I got 6 regular and 24 mini cupcakes.  Fill with this filling (you need less than half the batch), and dip cupcake tops in canned chocolate frosting that's been melted for 15 seconds in the microwave.

Cinnamon Sugar Mini Donuts - I poured the batter into a greased mini donut pan and got 36.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Minittone



Mini panettone.  Need I say more?  Head on over to the Baker's Banter blog for a tutorial on making a delicious American-Style Panettone (so-named because it uses a more friendly mix of fruits than a traditional panettone).  For this recipe, I used diced candied citron and a mix of dried fruits I already had in my pantry.  If you don't have mini panettone paper molds, you can bake them in jumbo muffin tins.  I did half without liners and half with the jumbo cupcake liners (well greased with non-stick spray) to see which would be better.  I preferred the softer crust on the lined ones but like the look of the ones without liners!  :)

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

America, THIS is Why We're Fat.



Like something straight from a sweet-toothed child's dream, CakeSpy's Cookie Cake Pie is an otherworldly concoction rightfully deserving of the #1 spot in CakeSpy's Top Posts of 2009.  Imagine the trifecta of baked goods rolled into one impossibly delicious creation...can you even wrap your mind around it?  It's something that has to be tasted to be believed, and it's so gosh darned intriguing that I couldn't not make it!


Cookie Cake Pie  (makes 2 pies, each serving at least 12)
Adapted from CakeSpy's original recipe

2 unbaked pie crusts
30 oz. Chocolate chip cookie dough (I used Pillsbury®'s family size)
1 box Funfetti® cake mix, prepared according to box instructions
Frosting (about 2 cups - I used leftover buttercream)
Sprinkles, if desired  

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place pie crusts into two 9" pie pans; trim and flute the edges.  Divide cookie dough into two portions.  Press one portion into each crust, forming an even layer of cookie dough.  Pour half of prepared cake batter over each cookie layer.

Bake at 35o°F for 30-40 minutes, or until cake layer has set.  Mine took almost an hour to bake. If it's jiggly, it's not done!  Just keep an eye on it.  I had to tent mine with foil after 40 minutes...the top was a nice golden brown but the batter was still quite loose.  Cool cookie cake pie completely before frosting and decorating.  Cut into (small!) slices and enjoy!

Recipe Notes:
  •  Make this for your next large gathering (Super Bowl party, anyone?).  It's a sure-fire conversation starter, and people will be talking about it for days.  "Hey...remember when Ms. SuchandSuch made that Cookie Cake Pie Thing?"
  • This is such an easy "recipe" to tinker with.  See what flavor combos you can come up with!  Or...imagine it topped with ice cream instead of frosting...
  • I would've liked more cookie, less cake...but that's my fault.  In the recipe above, I've listed 30 oz. cookie dough, or 15 oz. in each crust.  In truth, I used 12 oz. in each crust and made four cookies with the rest of the dough.  I also ate some :)  
  • For best results, make your own pie crust.  I cheated with refrigerated crusts, and it showed.  Not the strongest component of the trio.  But then again, I don't even like pie crust.

While we're on the subject of things that are really sweet♥, I recently received the Sugar Doll Blog Award from Faith of An Edible Mosaic (formerly Thought 4 Food).  Faith is also known as half of the dynamic duo of hosts for the All Through the Year Cheer events.  Her blog is currently undergoing some changes, so keep checking back if the link doesn't work for you today.  Thanks, Faith!  I started blogging two years ago to keep friends and family members updated on what I've been baking up in my kitchen.  Never in a million years did I expect my blog to gain a wider audience, connect with like-minded bloggers, or receive any awards! 



With this award, I'm supposed to share ten things about myself, then pass the award along to ten other bloggers.  Here we go! 
  1. I am working on breaking my Diet Coke addiction. 
  2. I can't swim.  (Okay, maybe that's not 100% true. I get very panicky if my feet can't touch the bottom of a pool. Could I swim to save my life?  Maybe.  But I'd rather not test that theory, thank you very much.) 
  3. I am a guilty member of Exclamation Point Overusers Anonymous!  Really!  I can't help it!!!  Sorry.  
  4. Ghost shows freak me out.  Really really freak me out.  I don't even like watching the commercials for "Ghost Hunters" and the like.
  5. My celebrity crushes include: Alton Brown, Duff Goldman, Ewan McGregor, and Grant Imahara (of Mythbusters fame, and my #1 pick...if I had to choose).
  6. Frying food scares me.  I'm not too keen on having bubbling hot vats of oil on my stove, but I'll happily eat pretty much anything if it's fried! :)
  7. Socks occupy 2½ of my dresser drawers.  They're very small drawers, but still. Yeesh.  One for white athletic socks, one for colorful fun socks, and half of a miscellaneous drawer for knee socks and toe socks (both of which I love dearly.  I have yet to find a knee-length toe sock I want to purchase though).
  8. I'm a geeky gal who owns all seasons of Stargate SG-1 AND Stargate Atlantis.  They sit on a shelf dedicated to titles that begin with "Star", which is currently at maximum capacity.  And OF COURSE I have Star Trek and Star Wars in there too!
  9. I spend too much time online.
  10. I used to think those Snuggie commercials were ridiculous, but now that I own a Snuggie-type item I've reconsidered my stance.  It's the warmest blanket I own.  Why didn't I think to invent the "blanket with sleeves?!?!?!"  I could be rich.  :D 
    And now, the best part--sending this award along to ten bloggers who I think are deserving of the title "Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger."  Here they are in alphabetical order: 
    1. Brooke of Tongue-N-Cheeky
    2.  Jen of Cake Wrecks
    3. Jenny of Picky Palate
    4. Jessie of CakeSpy 
    5. Lori of Recipe Girl
    6. Mary of The Food Librarian
    7. Ms. Humble of Not So Humble Pie
    8. Nicole of Baking Bites
    9. Pam of Cookie Crazie
    10. Tracy of Sugarcrafter

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    My Girl, Paula: Salad



    This week's My Girl, Paula! theme is Salads/Healthy Vegetables-- something I thought would be impossible to find in the Butter Queen's arsenal of recipes.  Ms. Deen isn't known for her figure-friendly recipes, but I was able find a recipe for Corn, Avocado, & Tomato Salad online.  It's so good, I've made it twice in the past 4 days.  The second time I made it, I reduced the amount of olive oil (because I was out, but the recipe was just as good with less than half the oil) and added chopped jalapeno peppers for some kick.  Both times I used two avocados instead of one...because I like avocados and they're pretty good for you!

    This dish makes an excellent accompaniment for almost anything: chicken, fish, steaks, you name it.  It would especially nice in the summer alongside a grilled burger instead of the usual fries.  Toss some grilled chicken chunks or Krab into the mix for a light main course, or do what I did--serve it up with some:



    I found the original recipe here but modified it because it calls for a scary amount of salt-based Cajun/Creole seasoning.  Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning is the most famous and widely available of this genre of seasonings, but there are OODLES more to choose from if you happen to venture down into South Louisiana.  Out of curiosity, I visited my nearest grocery store to see just how many I could find.  I counted 29.  Twenty. Nine. !!!  And that's not including any of Emeril's or Chef Paul Prudhomme's seasoning blends!  These seasoning blends come in little shake-top canisters and sport fun names such as "Slap Ya Mama" or "Magic Swamp Dust".  For this recipe, however, I opted for a salt-free blend (Benoit's Spicy Salt-Free Cajun Seasoning):


     (Image from eCrater)

    Find the recipe here.  My adjustments:  Used 1 Tablespoon salt-free cajun seasoning and ½ teaspoon salt in place of 3 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning, and cooked them on my George "Faux"man grill.  Everything else stayed the same. 

    One of the advantages of living in coastal Louisiana is the availability of fresh, quality seafood at very reasonable prices.  Check out this beauty:



    And the best part?  It was probably caught the same day I bought it, by a shrimper who lives not more than 30 miles from me!  The only downside is they're sold head-on, so if you're at all squeamish about cleaning seafood you'd be in a bind!  You'll quickly get over it though, once you remember you've paid $2.98 a pound.