Wednesday, July 25, 2012

.southern caramel cupcakes w/ candied pecans.

I don't know many people who don't love cupcakes.  These individual serving sized treats are perfect for someone who would like to splurge a little, but not overindulge.

I make cupcakes whenever I go to my scrapbook weekends.  I take two varieties and these deliciously moist, Southern Caramel Cupcakes were the ones I took just recently to a crop.  A light, buttery cake topped with homemade caramel and a candied pecan.  Could you get any more southern than that?

These take time to make -- at least, the caramel does.  So make sure you give yourself ample time.  Whomever you make these cupcakes for, they will love you for it!  Enjoy!

Butter Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups cake flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Your batter at this point will be really light and fluffy. 

In a bowl, mix together all your dry ingredients.   In a measuring cup, put your milk and vanilla.

Alternating, add some dry ingrediens and then some of the wet.  Do this until all has been added and mixed in.  Your batter should be slightly thick, but fluffy like frosting.

Using a large cookie scoop, scoop your batter into paper lined muffin tins.  Bake at 350* for approx 15 minutes.  When a toothpick inserted comes out clean, remove from the oven and dump onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely.

Homemade Caramel Topping

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, put 4 cups sugar and 1 cup butter (cut up into pieces) and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the butter/sugar begins to turn a caramel color.  (Approx. 10 minutes)

When the sugar turns a deep amber, add 2 cans evaporated milk (Pet brand preferred) and 1 tsp sea salt (no substitutions).  Whisk until smooth.  It might take a few minutes, but as the milk heats up, the sugar will dissolve.

Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and lower the heat a smidge to medium low.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  When your candy thermometer reaches 245*, pull the pot from the heat and add 1 tsp vanilla.  Mix in well.

If you have a stand mixer, pour the hot caramel into your mixing bowl and using the paddle attachment, beat on slow for 30 minutes, or until the caramel becomes thick and is spreadable.  Let sit again for 30 minutes.

Spoon some caramel onto each cupcake.  Using a knife or small offset spatula, spread the caramel around to cover the surface of each cake. 

*NOTE:  Do not let this caramel sit too long otherwise it will set up too much and won't spread out as easily - and you could pull up the top of your cake. 

Candied Pecans

Put 2 cups pecan halves in a skillet and add 1/2 cup sugar.  Over medium heat, keep stirring the pecans and sugar around until the sugar melts and coats the pecans.  It will turn an amber color like the caramel.  When it does, remove from the heat immediately and dump the coated pecans onto a piece of foil or on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Allow to cool, then break up into pieces. 

*NOTE:  These can be made up days in advance.  Store in an air-tight container until ready to use.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

.chile-rubbed short ribs w/ sopes, greens, & pickled onions.

I love short ribs, but whenever I make them, I always go to my go to recipe with tomatoes, red wine, Italian herbs and all that good stuff.  It's always an Italian dish!  I decided to try something new.  While searching around the internet, I came across a recipe for chile rubbed short ribs, which gave it a more Latin/South American flavor.  Something I definitely wanted to try. 

With short ribs, you need to make them well ahead of time.  They take 4 hours to braise in the oven to ensure the sinew has broken down and for the fat to render completely.  Do it properly, and you'll have a finished product that's juicy and tender and mouthwateringly delicious!

There are a lot of components to this dish and while it may look awfully fancy in my picture, it's really not.  In fact, I would even consider this dish something a beginner could easily make.  So if you're feeling intimidated, don't! 


Put chile powder and salt in a bowl (2:1 ratio).  Generously coat all of the short ribs and set aside.  If you can, do this step the night before so they can soak in all that smoky chile flavor.

Put some oil in a large dutch oven and heat over medium high heat.  When hot, put in your short ribs and sear all sides of the pieces.  If all of your short ribs didn't fit in the pan, sear some and then put them on a plate.  Repeat searing the remaining ribs.  Place all seared ribs back into the dutch oven. 

Add to your pot:

1 1/2 cups red wine (a good Spanish wine would be fantastic for this)
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 Spanish onion, sliced
1 lime, cut in half, squeeze juice into the pot and drop the lime into the pot
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can green chiles, diced
2 tomatoes, diced

Put the lid on and pop this into a preheated 250* oven.  Cook for 4 hours.


Peel and thinly slice 1 red onion.  Put in a large ziploc with 1/2 cup warm water, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt.  Seal up the ziploc, removing as much air as possible.  Pop in the fridge and let sit.  This step can be done a day in advance to give your onions more time to pickle.

Step 3: SOPES

Sopes are these lovely little fried corn pancakes.  They have a hint of sweetness that pairs well with the robust short rib.

In a bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups masa (I used Maseca), 1 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp salt.

In a saucepan, put 2 1/2 cups milk and heat to boiling.  Once boiling, turn off the burner and add 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces.

When the butter has completely melted, pour the hot milk into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.  Let sit for 5 minutes for the masa to absorb the liquid.

If you have an electric griddle, use it.  If you don't, you can use a skillet over medium heat.  Heat your griddle to 350*.  Drizzle the hot griddle with oil or melted butter.  Use a 2 Tbsp cookie scoop and scoop blobs of batter onto your griddle surface.  Take a metal spatula and carefully press down each blob to make a little pancake.  (I did have to coat the back of my spatula with some butter so the dough wouldn't stick to it.)  Cook for 6 minutes on each side.  When they're golden brown on both sides, remove and set aside.  Repeat until all the batter is cooked up.

Step 4:  PLATE!

When all of your steps are done, it's time to plate.

Begin by placing your sopes down first.  I used spring greens and layed them down on top of each sope.    Then I put a piece of short rib meat on top of that!  Crumble a little Cotija cheese on top of that, then drizzle with some Mexican Crema.  The final step is placing some of those pickled onions as the garnish.

Voila!  So simple.  So SO delicious.  Your family will be amazed by your mad culinary skills!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

.tagliatelle w/ bolognese.

I bought a pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid last year and have only used it a couple of times... to roll out pieces of fondant.  No pasta.  Something about making homemade pasta scared me.  I don't know what it is.  It was this irrational fear that it wasn't going to turn out.

Well, I decided to give it a try.  I read a lot about pasta making online, checked out YouTube videos and I felt confident that I could do it!

Tagliatelle is one of the traditional pastas to use with bolognese sauce.  It's a lot like fettuccine but not as thick.

For the pasta, I used:

1 cup flour
1 cup semolina flour (If your store carries Bob's Red Mill brand, you can find it there)
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp olive oil
Cold water

Mix together the flours and salt.  You can either mix in a bowl or on your counter.  I used my counter.  Make a deep well in the center and add the eggs and olive oil.  Using your fingers of one  hand, start mixing things together, being careful not to knock down the walls of your dam.  Use your other hand to keep the dam intact.

Add Tablespoons of cold water as needed until you have a nice, slightly dry dough.  Keep working the dough until you have collected and incorporated all of the dry ingredients.  Add more water as needed.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  This helps relax the gluten.  Cut the ball of dough into four pieces.  Flatted out slightly like a pancake and round edges.  Wrap each piece well with Saran wrap and let rest for 30-45 minutes.  This will help relax the dough so it can stretch well.

To learn how to use your pasta maker and roll out the pasta, check out this great YouTube clip.

Make sure you roll your dough to the #6 setting and then run through your fettucine cutter.  Make sure you dust your cut pasta with a little flour to keep it all from sticking together. 

Now bolognese.  This needs to be made well in advance.  In fact, make it the day before you plan on having it for dinner because it gives those flavors a lot of time to marry together, forming a wonderful sauce.  Here's my recipe for bolognese ------

1 lb ground beef or sirloin
1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb medium thick sliced pancetta, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 Tbsp sugar
3-4 fresh roma tomatoes, chopped
Rind off of your parmesan wedge
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup cream
Fresh herbs (oregano, basil, bay leaf, Italian parsley)

Heat some oil in a large sauce pot or dutch oven.  Put in the pancetta, sirloin, and pork and start browning.  When the meat is halfway browned, add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and bay leaf.  Mix around and let those aromatics cook with the meat.  When the meat is completely cooked, add your sugar, tomato sauce, paste, diced tomatoes, and red wine.  Add more wine if you need to.  Tie your fresh herbs into a bouquet garni and drop into the pot.  We'll fish these out later.  Also drop in the rind cut off your parmesan wedge.  This will add a lot of flavor to your bolognese. 

Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Don't go crazy with the salt right now, because as the sauce cooks, that rind is going to add a lot of salty flavor and you don't want to wind up with something too salty.

Stir in the cream and cover with a lid.  Pop in a 300 degree oven and let it cook for about 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the oven and either serve, or let it cool so you can put it in the fridge.  Like I said earlier, this is best if it can sit in the fridge overnight.  The next day, remove the parmesan rind and bouquet garni.  Taste and reseason with salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve hot.

You don't have to be of Italian heritage to make an amazing pasta dish with authentic bolognese!  Enjoy!