Friday, September 10, 2010

.boston cream cupcakes.

Earlier last month, the girls and I surprised my husband with a trip to Boston for his birthday. It's only a 3 hour drive from here and while I've been once, I didn't get to do any sightseeing because I was there for work. We had the greatest time seeing all the sites. We went to the New England Aquarium, walked the Freedom Trail, shopped at the Farmer's Market, saw street performers, and ate lots of lobster. It was a fabulous vacation!

Since taking that trip, I have had a hankering for Boston Cream Pie, but I wanted to change it up a bit and make it a cupcake instead of a cake (it really is a cake even though they call it a pie). Boston Cream Pie is really a yellow butter cake filled with pastry cream, then topped with chocolate ganache. So delicious. So decadent. So fattening (but it's okay to indulge every now and then!).

You want to start by making your pastry cream.

2 cups Milk
1 tsp vanilla
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 Tbsp butter
pinch of salt

In a saucepan put 1 3/4 cups milk and sugar. Bring to boiling point but do not let boil; set aside. In a bowl, mix together the yolks, the remaining milk, and the flour and salt; mix well. While whisking, temper the yolks by slowly pouring the hot milk into the egg/flour/milk mixture. You don't need to add all the hot milk. About 3/4 cup.

Pour the tempered yolks/milk back into the saucepan and put over medium high heat.
Whisk constantly until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and add
the butter and vanilla.

Put the saucepan in a ice bath to cool down the pastry cream. Make sure you stir this occasionally as it cools so it doesn't form a skin on the surface.
**NOTE: Pastry Cream can be made a day or two ahead of time and kept in the fridge in an airtight container.

How we want to make the cupcakes. If you're in a hurry, you can use a boxed yellow cake mix. I prefer cake from scratch. Here's the recipe I used:

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition. Mix in the vanilla, salt, and baking powder.
Alternating, add the milk and flour until well mixed.

Fill each cupcake mold 3/4 the way up. Put in a preheated 350* F oven for about 20 minutes.

The tops should be slightly domed and lightly golden. Remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the muffin pan and cool on a wire rack.

When the cupcakes are cooled, use a knife and cut out the center top of each cupcake. Spoon in a small dollop of pastry cream (I used a mounded teaspoonful).

Top with chocolate ganache (recipe) and put in the fridge to set.
This recipe made 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grilling Class

The past few months, I've been teaching cooking classes here in my home to a dozen or so ladies from church and their friends. It has been so much fun doing these classes and I think everyone that have attended has learned at least one thing they could take home and make for their own families. So rewarding.

Last week, I had a grilling class and thought I would share with you, dear readers, what we did.

First, I went over grill maintenance and how to work both a gas grill and charcoal grill. If you have no idea what you're doing or if you're afraid of the grill, DON'T BE!!!! It's such a wonderful way to cook your food!

Some important tips!

  • Never use your grill against the house. Pull the grill away from the wall because in the extremely rare case that it blows up (LOL!) or you get a fireball, you won't burn your house down. Gosh.. if you were afraid to use your grill before, I bet you just wet your pants. Seriously... I don't think I've ever heard of a BBQ grill blowing up before so let's not worry about that.
  • Never use your grill inside your home. It's dangerous. Don't ever do it.
  • Always keep your propane tank (if you use a gas grill) turned OFF when it's not in use. Do this for a couple reasons: 1) If you have kids they could fiddle with the knobs and drain your tank; and 2) they could fiddle with the tank and some poor sucker goes outside to have a cigarette and it's Uncle Lewis from Christmas Vacation all over again. Kaboom. No bueno people.. no bueno.
  • If you've got food crud stuck to the grates that won't come off with a grill brush, remove them and place on the grass. Spray with oven cleaner, let sit for an hour or so and then wipe with paper towels. Wash well and voila.. they'll look brand new!
  • If you need to GREASE your grates to keep food from sticking, NEVER EVER apply that to your grill when it's on and hot. Spray before you start the BBQ and please people.. don't ever spray PAM directly into a hot, burning bbq grill.
  • If you use a charcoal grill, never spray charcoal fluid directly onto flame. It's not a smart idea and you might wind up in the burn ward of your local hospital if you do. In fact, use the Match Light briquettes by Kingsford. They've already been soaked in fluid and they're awesome. Just stack, light, and forget!

So now that I've completely scared you, let's talk versatility of grill cooking. You can cook ANYTHING on a grill with reason. You can grill vegetables, bread, meat, pizzas, fruit, cake! The ideas are limitless.

If you let the man in your life grill, that's fine. My husband does the majority of the bbq'ing in our house. But when he was going out to sea all the time, I learned how to do it and am pretty dang good at being the Grill Mistress (if I do say so myself). If I hadn't learned, I wouldn't have ever eaten grilled food during those long deployments.

Now we're ready to grill. For my class, I threw on a thick ribeye steak that had been seasoned with McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning. Make sure you let the meat sit out on your counter for about 30 minutes or so. You'll get the best results if the meat is room temp. Also, it's important when cooking meat on the grill to have a good hot grill. This sears the outside and keeps all that juice and flavor inside. No one likes dried out meat, right? Grill for 3-4 minutes on one side, then flip. Keep doing this until your steak is cooked to your desired doneness.

For a great steak topping, I highly suggest my Mushroom, Onion, and Blue Cheese bake.

While the steak was cooking, I put a vegetable rack on the grill to keep my veggies from falling through the grates. You can pick up these vented pieces of sheet metal at Lowes where you can find the BBQ items for about $5.00. I had vegetables all prepped to make my Grilled Italian Sausage and Veggie Panini. The ladies really loved this sandwich!

I grilled extra vegetables, including some spears of asparagus to make a grilled pasta salad. No recipe, just grill up vegetables that are in season! I used zucchini, red onion, asparagus, red bell pepper, and portabello mushroom. When they're cooked, remove from the grill and add roughly chop. Toss together with some baby spinach, some cooked ravioli (I used one of those small packages in the deli section), a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and pepper. If you want a little more flavor, grill up some garlic (leave the cloves in the husk and rub with olive oil) and add that in. The perfect summer salad and low on fat. Grilling the vegetables gives them a whole new flavor and it's amazing!

Alright.. next up was a flatbread sandwich. I grilled some fresh ears of corn (3) and cut the corn away from the cob. The flatbread sandwich was really my Santa Fe Chicken Salad with Corn and Black Bean Salsa on grilled bread. For the dough, I made up a batch of pizza dough, let rise once, then divided, rolled out, brushed with olive oil and popped on the grill. Let bake about 2-3 minutes on each side, then remove. I grilled the chicken along with the steak and when it was done, diced it up and put some pieces on the flatbread, some lettuce, the salsa, and then drizzled lightly with the Southwest Ranch dressing. Fold the bread over, slice and eat! So so delicious!

After cleaning the grill grates with a wire brush, I started on the dessert part of the class. Earlier in the day, I pre-made some Raspberry Coulis (coo-lee) and had it in a little squeezy bottle. I thawed a Sara Lee frozen pound cake and cut it into thick slices. I also had peaches sliced in half and removed the pit. Brush the peaches with 3 Tbsp melted butter mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar and pop on the grill. The peaches will take about 6-8 minutes to grill. Turn them every 2 minutes to grill all around. While those cook up, put the pound cake on the grill. Yep, you heard me! Put them on the grill! Let them toast on each side then remove.

To plate, drizzle some coulis on the plate, put a slice of pound cake down in the center, place a peach half on top of the cake, then repeat with another slice of pound cake and peach. Top with whipped cream or some sweetened mascarpone cheese. Drizzle with a little more coulis and add a sprig of mint for prettiness!

That was the class. Now that you know what you can do on your BBQ grill, go forth and create!

Before you leave, tell me what your favorite food on the grill is. I'd love to hear from you!