March 19, 2011

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes(revisited)

I thought I'd repost this recipe with some new pictures since the last time I made these, all the shots were with my point and shoot. Again, they didn't disappoint. Even people who claim they don't like sweets love these cupcakes. Since they're super rich, I made about half in mini-form using this mini muffin pan. A perfect two(or one really large) bite size. 
 Yes-- I am well aware of the non-PC name and these really only refer to the commonly known drink so try not to be too offended just this once. 

The first component of the drink consists of a glass three quarters full of Guinness. A shot glass is then filled with half whiskey and half Bailey's and subsequently gets dropped into the beer. The drinker is to 'chug' the concoction before the Bailey's coagulates. This might sound disgusting, but the flavors really work! The end result is a sweet, rich taste—kind of like a chocolate cake shot but less overwhelming (ps. you should try that sometime as well…just equal amounts of hazelnut liqueur and vanilla vodka-YUM!).
These cupcakes are a bit time-consuming but a lot of fun to make. I use a cream cheese based frosting rather than buttercream frosting because who can resist cream cheese frosting, really? ;)

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes adapted from smittenkitchen
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda(make sure it's fresh or they won't rise properly)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling
8 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half & half)
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2-4 teaspoons Irish whiskey (Not optional)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer beat the eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners(I use a large measuring cup with a pouring spout to make it easier/cleaner), filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cut the centers out of your cupcakes using a small paring knife. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your "tasters". Put the ganache into a piping bag(or large zip-top bag with a cut to the corner) with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 ounce bar of cream cheese, softened
3 ounces of unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2-4 Tablespoons of Bailey's Irish Cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, add the cream cheese and butter. Beat until combined. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Drizzle in the Bailey's, more or less depending on how boozy you want the frosting, and beat until completely incorporated into the frosting.

March 14, 2011

Guinness and Onion Soup with Irish Cheddar Crouton

Ever since I can remember, I've had an affinity for onions. Even as a kid I would ask for onion rings to go with my "happy meals" instead of french fries. The trick was biting through them without pulling out the entire onion from its crunchy coating.
As much as I love onions, it's a challenge convincing the Kiwi to eat them. In preparation for his permanent return, I thought I'd give this a try. Soft and sweet caramelized onions in a beef broth covered in gooey messy cheese? I think he'll go for it. This recipe would also be great for St. Patrick's Day. A welcome change from the traditional corned beef since I'm only feeding one here and I certainly don't need 3 pounds of leftovers. 

Guinness and Onion Soup with Irish Cheddar Crouton adapted from Michael Chiarello
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups thinly sliced onions
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 sherry or balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups Guinness beer
6 cups beef stock
6 slices country bread, cut 1/2 inch thick, toasted
1/2 pound Irish cheddar, sliced thin

Measure out your beer(I halved the recipe) and let sit until you need it. 
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add sliced onions, garlic, and salt then caramelize until golden brown over medium-high heat. Add a spoonful of broth if you find the bottom of the pan getting dark and the onions staying white. Caramelization will take 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally. 
Add the sugar, thyme, bay leaf, and balsamic or sherry vinegar. Let the vinegar cook down about a minute then add the Guinness. Reduce liquid by half by simmering for 5-6 minutes. Add the beef stock and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. 
When ready to serve, turn on your oven's broiler. Divide soup into bowls and top with a slice of toast and as much cheese as you can handle.
*Note if you fill your bowls all the way to the top, first place them on a baking sheet just in case they bubble over.
 Broil until the cheese melts and begins to turn golden brown. Watch those bowls carefully, that broiler is HOT. Let cool for a few minutes then dive in!
Serves 6.

March 10, 2011

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Carbonara is one of the most simple pasta dishes within Italian cuisine. No chopping or simmering for hours, and definitely no Italian mother needed. Just 5 ingredients and 10 minutes gets you a hearty and uber delicious meal. This has been my go-to when I get home from work at 1am  and need sustenance FAST! You really can't go wrong with crispy cured pork and cheese.   
This recipe was written for one serving but can easily be doubled for a quick date-night. All you need to know is one yolk and one ounce of milk(that's one shot glass) per person. The amount of cheese and pancetta is really up to you. Lastly, the taste depends on the cheese you buy. I've had some foul-tasting pecorino before so make sure you buy the good stuff, from Italy preferably. You can use parmesan in a cinch but I prefer Pecorino Romano for its more developed flavor. 

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
3 to 4 ounces dried spaghetti
1/4 cup pancetta(or bacon), diced
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1 ounce(2 tablespoons) milk
freshly cracked black pepper

Boil your pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. 
While the pasta is boiling, heat a large non-stick skillet to medium and begin to brown your pancetta.  
Crack the egg open and separate the yolk from the white by gently tossing the yolk back and forth between the shell. 
Grab your delicious pecorino and try to refrain from eating all of it. 
Combine the yolk, cheese, milk, and a good crack of black pepper in a small bowl. 
Stir to should look something like this. 
When the pancetta is browned and the pasta is cooked, transfer the pasta into your skillet. SAVE your pasta water for later!
Now here's the important part...turn off the heat and pour in your egg/cheese mixture while vigorously shaking the pan. By keeping the pan constantly moving you'll prevent the egg from scrambling and turn it into a luscious sauce. Keep tossing until all of the cheese is melted. Feel free to add a spoonful or two of the hot pasta water if the sauce gets a bit too thick and starts to stick together. Add a pinch of salt if you need it(although the pancetta and cheese will both be pretty salty). 

March 7, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

It's no secret, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. If When I open my own place someday, breakfast will be served at all hours of the day. 
If I want to be even slightly enjoyable to be around before 2pm(not a morning person is a severe understatement), I've got to start with some caffeine. Now, I'm all for quality espresso drinks but nothing beats a simple cup of brewed coffee. Cue stupid side story: On more than one occasion in Australia I went into a cafe and ordered a coffee. Server asks, "What kind?" 
J: "Uh, just a coffee thanks." 
Server looks at me like I'm disabled and starts reading off the menu. 
"Flat white, short black, long black, latte?" 
Apparently Australians have their own coffee language. Which I learned soon after since I went to barista school there. But anyway, they don't serve plain-old brewed coffee. Only fancy pants(all delicious) espresso drinks. Moral of the story, always stick to the universal latte. Or if you find yourself in Australia and wanting black coffee, order a long black-a shot of espresso with hot water poured in. 
 Here's Natalia's hung-over brunch of champions. Clam chowder, a side salad, and a big ol' plate of BACON. She's inspired me to have 90% of my future restaurant menu feature bacon in ridiculous forms.
Mmmm...bacon chowder.