Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Trot + Pumpkin Pie + Good Friends = Happy Kim


As I sit here listening to Christmas music, I’m reflecting on Thanksgiving, as this holiday is often quickly whisked away under one’s Christmas tree skirt. Although I’m anticipating adorning my first tree in a few years, I would like to take a few breaths and share all that I am thankful for this Thanksgiving!

My alarm clock went off at exactly 6:00am. It was dark outside…chilly…and rainy. As I dragged myself out of bed, I looked into the living room to see my best friend, Kristi, slowly waking up, while her dog, Guppy, was happily wagging his tail. It was going to be a good morning.

Coffee on.

After putting on our layers and giving her pup some love, we were off to our first 5k Turkey Trot together! 

We have been running together since high school, but this was our first east coast race together. To make it even better, it was on Thanksgiving and I am so thankful for such a great friend!

We arrived, picked up our packets, warmed up, and stretched. 
I had to represent my alma mater!

We discussed the idea of running together, but knowing our two competitive spirits, that idea was diminished as soon as we heard the start signal! Kristi kicked butt with a time of 23:07:27 (that’s a 7:27/mi pace!) and I was thrilled with my time of 26:04:78 (an 8:24/mi average pace!). 

During the race I saw ladies wearing turkey hats, a man in a full-body turkey costume, and everyone looking so happy! Everyone was wishing each other a happy Thanksgiving and the atmosphere was brimming with joy! It was a fabulous way to begin this day of thanks.

After eating the post-race donuts, dried fruit, and oranges, we went home to relax for a bit before the real feast!

Since my family is in California, another of my best friends invited me to her home for the eating extravaganza. It was my pleasure to bake the staple pumpkin pie. I didn’t just want to make the Libby’s recipe on the pumpkin pie can, so I decided to mix it up a bit. I wanted to create a pumpkin pie that surpassed all pumpkin pies! So of course it needed butter and cream cheese! I have to say, I came pretty close to my goal…

Pumpkin Pie
The following is a combination/adaptation of Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Pie recipe (foodnetwork.com) and Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Ingredients
1 8oz package softened cream cheese
2 cups canned pumpkin (cups, not cans!)
1 cup sugar
½ tspn salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
¼ cup melted butter
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn ground cinnamon
½ tspn ground ginger
¼ tspn ground cloves
¼ tspn ground nutmeg
Pre-made pie dough (store bought or homemade)

Directions
Place the pie dough into a 10.5 in pan and crimp the sides, so it looks pretty. Put the pie in the freezer for one hour to firm up. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When you remove it, cover the bottom with aluminum foil and put beans or pie weights into the pie. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil. Bake another 10 minutes.

Filling
Beat the cream cheese in your electric mixer. Add the pumpkin and mix. Add sugar and salt. Beat. Add eggs and egg yolks, half-and-half, butter, and beat. Add vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg. Beat.

Pour filling into crust and bake 50-60 minutes. The center should be set and it should not jiggle too much. Cool on a wire rack. 

Then top with whipped cream when served! Homemade whipped cream is super easy, so I recommend going with that!



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy (belated) National Chocolate Cupcake Day!


I can’t believe I missed it! Such an important day! I’ve been so busy thinking about the upcoming holidays, that I missed an essential October holiday. That’s right ladies and gentlemen; October 18th was National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

There are two theories about the origin of cupcakes. The first says that the name comes from the amount of ingredients used in the recipe (ex. 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, etc.) The second theory says that it was named after the fact they are baked in cups (http://www.foodtimeline.org). It seems that there is historical evidence supporting both theories!

Now I know many of you have made cupcakes from mixes (it’s okay, I won’t tell), but on this day, let us show our admiration for this petite, melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, decadent treat by going all out! Sure you could make a simple cupcake, but I dare you to make an elegant cupcake!

The following recipe is from Dede Wilson’s book A Baker’s Field Guide to Cupcakes. The recipe is called “Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Cupcakes”. Need I say more?

Recipe and Ingredients

*The recipe says it yields 24, but I found it made 19.

Chocolate Cupcake Batter
1 ½ cups flour
½ cups cocoa powder
¾ tspn baking soda
¼ tspn salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tspn vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup milk, room temp.
Cupcake liners
¾ cup chopped white chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins.

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer until creamy. Then add sugar, until fluffy.

Beat in vanilla, followed by eggs (1 at a time).

Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, making sure to end with the flour.

Beat until smooth.

Divide batter into cupcake tins. I like to use my handy dandy ice cream scooper that my school gave us at the beginning of the year!


Then, place the white chocolate chunks into each cupcake. You could mix in the chunks before pouring the batter into the tins, but I wanted to have a piece of white chocolate in every bite!



Bake for approx. 17 minutes. Then, cool on racks for about 5 minutes before removing them from the tin to cool completely.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
*Tip: Make sure temperatures are exact!

Ingredients
2/3 cup, plus 3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup water
4 large egg whites, at room temp.
½ tspn cream of tartar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp., cut in pieces
11 oz milk chocolate, melted and cooled

Shavings: 1 block each of white, milk, and semisweet chocolate

Put the 2/3 cup sugar into a small pot and add the water. 
Stir the mixture and bring to a boil.

Wash down the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush a couple of times.


Mix the egg whites in an electric mixer until frothy. Then, add cream of tartar. Mix on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Bring the sugar-water mixture to a boil until it reaches 248-250 degrees. You want to bring it to the firm-ball stage (hehe).

Pour a thin, steady stream over the meringue. Be careful not to get any on the bowl or beater because it will stick there!

Whip the meringue on high speed until completely cool. Make sure the bowl is no longer warm and the meringue is cool.

Add the butter and mix at medium speed until smooth.

Add the melted milk chocolate and beat until mixed well.

Put the frosting into a pastry bag with the star tip. Frost cupcakes.


To make the chocolate shavings, put the chocolate on a flat surface and press your hand down on top of it. This warms the chocolate. Then, use a vegetable peeler to shave the chocolate. Sprinkle shavings on top of cupcakes.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake



What’s not to love about pumpkins?! You can use them for decoration, roast their seeds, and use them for amazing baked goods. And have you ever thought of the great arm workout you get by scooping out their insides? Or how you are expanding your creativity by designing the perfect jack-o-lantern? Pumpkins are not only flavorful, but they are a means to physical and mental perfection! Ummm, ok, maybe that’s a little much, but they are one of the most delicious flavors to bake with during the fall!

Due to my pumpkin fascination, I decided to bake a pumpkin cheesecake. I went straight to a woman who I know wouldn’t skimp on the good stuff, Paula Deen. Below is her recipe, with a few added tips. Enjoy!

Ingredients for the crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted salted butter 
Ingredients for the filling:
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Make crust: In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon.
Add melted butter and mix well.
Cover the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil, so the water bath doesn't seep into the dish. Press the crust down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

3. Start heating a water bath for the cheesecake to bake in. 
4. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth.
5. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and spices.
6. Add the flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
7. Pour into crust and spread out evenly.

8. Put the pan into the water bath in the oven (this will avoid a cracked cheesecake).
9. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
10. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes.

11. Remove foil and pan. You may want to run a knife around the edge of the crust to avoid the it sticking to the pan when you remove the outside. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Enjoy!
It turned out very creamy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Sweet Halloween!


I have to start this blog with a bang! My absolute favorite desserts to bake, and eat, are cupcakes! Give me chocolate with peanut butter filling, key lime with a hint of rosemary, vanilla with toffee chunks, or simply chocolate on chocolate…I love it all! So in order to truly show my affection for this moist, delectable treat, I decided to create a cupcake costume for Halloween. My friend was the oven.








For those who are interested, here’s how I created it:

I cut a poster board in half and glued it together, to make one long strip. Then, I folded it like a fan, to give it the baking-cup look. Next, I took pillow stuffing and wrapped it in a sheer fabric (tulle-like). I glued it to the poster board, then glued the entire thing together, so it fit on my hips. Finally, I attached thick ribbon to the poster board, to use as straps to hold the cupcake on my body. I chose all black underneath to make the cupcake really POP! The final topping was the red hair. It took a long time, but it was worth it!

Now a cupcake can’t show up to a party without bringing cupcakes, so I decided to bring one of my favorite flavor combinations: chocolate with cream cheese frosting. In order to truly be in the Halloween spirit, I made mummies and pumpkins!









Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 1/8 c. flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. whole milk, plus 2 tbsp. milk
1/3 c. warm coffee
1/2 c. melted butter

1. Mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg.
3. Add both sugars to the egg and mix well.
4. In a third bowl, mix together milk, coffee, and melted butter.
5. Now combine milk mixture with the sugar mixture. 
6. Add all of this to the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes with an electric beater.
7. Pour into cupcake tin with liners.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. 
10. Frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.