Monday, July 21, 2014

Cinnamon Nut Pudding Cake

1 cup sugar
2 TBS butter
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional, but I dig nutmeg)
1 tsp vanilla (I used homemade brandy vanilla)
1 cup milk

1.5 cups water
2 TBS butter
1.5 cups brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (again, optional)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup nuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart rectangular baking pan (11-in. by 7-in.).

Cream sugar and butter together and set aside. In a separate bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, baking powder, cinnamon (and nutmeg, if using). Blend the butter/sugar mixture with the flour mixture, gradually adding the milk and vanilla until smooth. Spread the batter into the greased pan.

Bring the water, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a boil. Remove from heat and the stir in vanilla. Pour over the cake batter and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream or enjoy as is!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stephanie's Dark & Stormy Muffins

Last summer, Lee and I spent a week visiting several New England states. One of our stops was Newport, Rhode Island, where we gawked at mansions, walked the Cliff Walk, visited a 300+-year-old graveyard, and of course, ate something new and yummy: a Dark & Stormy muffin from Katrina's Bakery.

The muffin is based loosely on the alcoholic drink of the same name, which is made with Gosling's Black Seal rum, ginger beer, and a squirt of lime. The muffin version skips the lime, uses ginger in place of ginger beer, and adds a small amount of white chocolate chips.  [I'm not a fan of white "chocolate" and I don't like chips in my muffins, but they were sparse and small, so it worked.]

We really enjoyed them, so I looked for recipes online when I got home. Dark & Stormy cupcake recipes abound - but I couldn't find a muffin version.

I decided to take a basic chocolate muffin recipe and experiment with adding ginger and black rum. I used Stephanie Jaworski's chocolate muffin recipe as my base. Everything I've ever made from her blog, Joy of Baking, has turned out really well.

My version is very good, but Lee and I agree that they're not exactly like what we got at Katrina's Bakery. Of course, it's been almost a year since we had it, so we'll just have to go back and try them again. ;)

A couple of notes:

*The key to making muffins is to mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in one bowl, mix the wet ingredients thoroughly in another bowl, and then gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until the wet and dry ingredients combine. There will still be lumps! Do not attempt to make it smooth or the muffins will be tough. The lumps will bake out.

*I couldn't find tiny white chocolate chips, so I ran some regular-sized chips through a food processor to make them smaller.

*Gosling's Black Seal rum comes in 80 and 151 proof. Please use the 80 proof and not the 151 proof. You don't want your oven to catch on, it might make overpower the chocolate ginger flavors.

*Lee mixed up a glaze to put on some of them, but I preferred mine plain. I'll include his glaze at the end.

*This recipe calls for buttermilk. I keep buttermilk powder in the fridge and then reconstitute it when a recipe calls for it. It's great to have on hand.

*I was out of muffin papers, so I just greased the muffin pans well. But I prefer using the foil "papers."

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin pans with papers or grease the muffin pans. This recipe makes 18 medium-sized muffins.

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup black rum
2 eggs

Dry Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ginger
2/3 cup baking cocoa
1/2 cup mini white chocolate chips (or regular sized that are chopped up)

As stated earlier, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are mixed together but still lumpy. Use a spatula to ensure the dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl get mixed in.

Fill the muffin tins 2/3 of the way full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. I have the world's most unreliable oven, so this occurs anywhere from 14 to 18 minutes. It's easy to overbake chocolate muffins, so check after 14 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the muffin tins. Let cool before adding glaze, if desired. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

1 cup confectioner's sugar
4 TBS black rum

Blend sugar and rum together and drizzle over muffins

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lee's Lobster Mac & Cheese

The first time we had lobster mac & cheese was last August at Blue Lobster Grille in Rockport, MA. We loved it, and Lee was inspired to make his own version. He's made it three times now, never using a recipe of course, and each time it's slightly different but equally delicious. The one downside to this method of cooking is that it's hard to share the recipe with others when you don't really know what it is yourself!

Lee took notes the last time he made it, so here goes:

This recipe made two 13- x 9-inch casserole pans. You can downsize the recipe for smaller amounts. Please keep in mind that these amounts are approximate.

1 cup butter (2 sticks) (divided)
3 crushed garlic cloves
3 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup flour
1 quart chicken broth
1 pint light cream
2 cups chardonnay (use chicken broth if you don't want to use alcohol)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1.5 lb of dry Cellentani noodles
1.5 lobster chunks (we get frozen lobster chunks from Costco)
1 lb assorted cheese (which becomes 8 cups when shredded - do NOT use pre-grated cheese!)
2 TB chardonnay salt (or 2 tsp regular salt)
Couple dashes pepper

*Optional: small onion (finely chopped) and some fresh or dried thyme

Bread Topping:
4 cups bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Moderate shakes of garlic salt
Extra parsley

*Items marked as option have been successfully used in prior versions.

Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.

In a 12-inch frying pan, melt a half a stick of butter (4 TBS) over medium heat. Add the garlic, celery, and optional onion and saute until tender (about 5 minutes or so).

Melt the rest of the butter (3/4 cup) in a large stock pot over medium heat and then make a rue by gradually adding flour to the melted butter while rigorously stirring until a nice pasty but smooth consistency forms. Gradually add the chicken broth, Chardonnay, and light cream, stirring well to keep it at an even and smooth consistency. Add Chardonnay salt (or regular salt), pepper, and the sautéed veggies. Bring to medium boil.

Gradually add the shredded cheese.

A note about the cheese: Use at least 2 kinds of cheese - a sharp cheese and a mild cheese. Lee has used aged provolone & jarlsberg and cheddar & fontina. It's worth the effort to grate your own cheese. Pre-grated cheese is coated with "stuff" to keep it from sticking, and it makes the cheese sauce gunky and weird.

Continue to stir and heat through until sauce is thick and gooey but still somewhat easy to stir. Turn off the heat. Add lobster chunks, parsley, and cooked macaroni; stir well until ingredients are evenly distributed. Spread evenly into greased pans.

In a separate bowl, mix the bread topping ingredients together. Spread evenly over mac/cheese mix in pans.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for for 45-50 minute. Remove foil during the last 5 minutes of cooking in order to brown the topping.

Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes or so before serving.