Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ice Cream Cupcake Challenge

Ask any of my friends what kind of beer I prefer, and they will tell you I’m a stout girl through-and-through. There is nothing I love more than sitting at the pub with a nice frothy pint of stout: oatmeal, coffee and most of all chocolate! I just love the way it feels in my mouth, dense and full bodied. It’s like adult carbonated-chocolate milk! Of course, even I can’t drink even a half of stout in the warmer months – the thick heaviness I love in the fall and winter weighs me down too much during the sweltering spring and summer here in Georgia. So, full of sadness, I move onto lighter and brighter beers, shoving my longing for the dense and dark into the far recesses of my heart.

So, imagine the seed of happiness that took root inside me when I came up with an idea which would enable me to partake of my beloved stout in the sweltering spring and summer! What was this idea, you may wonder… Chocolate Stout gelato! It is sooo good, and it’s really no wonder. I mean chocolate stout is already chocolate-y, creamy and richly textured – add some milk, cream and egg yolks and you’re on your way to heaven! Each bite is so exquisite – smoothly creamy and icy at the same time, with just a hint of bite from the roasted barley and cocoa powder of the stout. So satisfying on a hot and humid day! And I know that some of you are going to be thinking seriously? beer gelato? is she crazy? But hear me out: we put beer in tons of other recipes – chilis and batters and breads and cupcakes… so why not gelato? But just do me a favor – try this out! You won’t be disappointed – I mean, my neighbors love this gelato and they only drink Budweiser!

So anyway… I was over at my good friend and neighbor Becca’s house a couple weeks ago and found out about the Ice Cream Cupcake challenge hosted by The Cupcake Project and Scoopalicious. So I got to thinking what cake/ice cream/icing combo should I try out and submit. And, of course, it wasn’t long before my mind wandered to my beloved chocolate stout ice cream. And then I thought what is the most delicious thing a scoop of ice cream can rest on and of course the answer to that is a dense and chewy, super-chocolate-y brownie just waiting to soak up the rivulets of melting deliciousness! And of course I have to top it all off with a good hefty slab of super rich Irish buttercream!

Now this cupcake is super-duper rich. The brownie is really dense and chewy and studded with chocolate chips, the gelato is malty and slightly chocolate-y with a balance of rich and refreshing, and the frosting is thick and rich. These have to be stored in the freezer (duh, right?) and I think the best way to eat them is: take them out of the freezer, peel off the wrapper (if you used one) and let them sit for about 5 or so minutes – just long enough for the gelato to melt a little and begin saturating the brownie. Trust me – these are soooo good, you’ll want to share them before you eat the whole freezer-full!

Okay, so a few notes before I post the recipe: I used a chocolate stout to make the ice cream, but a coffee stout would also be spectacular as would any stout, really. Just be sure that you like the flavor of the beer to begin with… because, well, that’s what the finished product’s gonna taste like! And remember: use organic ingredients whenever possible! I haven’t been able to find an organic Irish Cream yet, but there are many great organic stouts out there to choose from!

Brownie Bottomed Chocolate Stout Ice Cream Cupcakes

1 batch brownie cupcakes - recipe follows
1 batch chocolate stout gelato - recipe follows
1-3 batches of Irish buttercream frosting - recipe follows
cocoa powder

1. Take the gelato from the freezer and allow to soften up a bit.
2. Using a sharp knife and a spoon, remove a flat-bottomed cone shape from each cupcake. (you can discard the middles or throw into a batch of bread pudding - yum!)
3. Fill the center and up to the top of the cupcake liner with gelato. Smooth out with the back of a spoon.
4. Freeze the gelato filled brownies for about 5-10 minutes or until the gelato is no longer drippy.
5. Remove from the freezer - one at a time worked best for me - and top with a generous portion of frosting (or not, your choice!).
6. Dust the tops lightly with a bit of cocoa powder (this not only looks pretty but helps cut the sweetness of the frosting).
7. Eat 'em up! (or, if you must, return to the freezer for storing)


Brownie Cupcakes
you're making these for brownies then fill them 3/4 of the way full and it will make 12. If you're making these for ice cream cupcakes, fill 1/2 way full and it will be enough for about 18 (depending on how much batter you eat first!).

1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs + 1 yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon coffee
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat the oven the 350 and either grease or line a cupcake pan. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and coffee. In batches, beat in the flour, cocoa powder and salt until well mixed. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour even portions into prepared cupcake tins.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the brownie is set. Let sit until cool enough to handle and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Yum!

Chocolate Stout Gelato

1 can/bottle chocolate stout
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the stout and brown sugar into a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then lower the heat a little and cook for about 5- 10 minutes or until reduced to about half. Pour the milk and cream into another larger sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer as well.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow in color, then beat in the vanilla. AS SOON AS the milk and cream come to a simmer remove from the heat. Add the milk mixture to the egg mixture in a thin and steady stream - if you add to fast the eggs might scramble, so go slow!

Cover the cream mixture with plastic wrap (press against the milk so it doesn't form a skin) and place in the fridge for a couple hours to cool. Once the stout is reduced you can either place it in the fridge too, or just let it cool on the stove.

When cool, remove from the fridge and combine the milk mixture with the reduced stout and whisk to blend. Pour into an ice cream mixer and freeze according to the directions. After it's set, pour into a Tupperware container and store in the freezer. So good!

Irish Buttercream Frosting
If you want to frost your cupcakes with a nice hefty slab like mine are, you'll need to triple the recipe. Just casually block out the large amount of butter you'll be consuming!

1 stick butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons Irish cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Place the softened butter into the bowl of a mixer. Beat until fluffy. Beat in about 1/2 cup of sugar and then the Irish cream. Blend in the rest of the sugar and the cocoa in batches, beating well to make it nice and fluffy. This makes a very thick, dense frosting. If you want it a little thinner, add a bit more Irish cream or some milk.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons...

Now I know that when life hands most people lemons they will make lemonade. But me, my friends, when life hands me lemons, well, I add some sugar and some butter and make myself some lemon curd! Trust me: if you’ve had lemon curd before, then you understand my obsession I’m sure. And if you haven’t… well, you need to try some STAT! Lemon curd is the world’s most perfect blend of sweet and tart. So tangy and creamy… I have dreams about this stuff!

I love lemon curd in the late Spring and early Summer. Lemon curd is the warmth of the sun plus a still-cool breeze and minus the dripping humidity to come. Lemon curd means garden tea parties full of cucumber sandwiches and fresh fruit and scones. All of this eaten on impossibly pretty and dainty plates and accompanied by a choice of fruit-scented teas. Oh, and of course in order to partake of the fare one must be adorned in a flowery frock and a very large, very pretty, very over-the-top hat. I simply and utterly adore lemon curd. I love it on scones the best, but it’s equally sublime spooned onto fruit, spread onto toast, or as a filling for a simple tart. It’s a great cake filling, donut filling… and, well… eaten right out of the jar with a spoon. If you’re me, that is!

But, if you’re like me you are simply not willing to spend $5 plus on a teeny-tiny jar of the stuff that would be eaten in one sitting before it even made it onto a scone. And, if you’re like me, you’re not willing to stand over a hot stove patiently watching and stirring the lemony concoction. But you still need to feed your addiction to this ambrosia… what to do? Well, people I have a solution to both shelling out the big bucks and standing over a hot stove. I have a recipe for lemon curd made in the glorious microwave! It is so easy, and so delicious that it’s really easy to overlook the overwhelming amount of butter involved! And trust me, once you try this… the amount of butter won’t matter at all because you’ll be too busy eating it to care!

Remember to always use organic ingredients if they’re available; they make a difference!

Lemon Curd

1 stick butter, melted
½ cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest (about 2-3 lemons)
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks

In a microwave-safe mixing bowl whisk together all of the ingredients really well. Place in the microwave and cover with a paper towel. Zap at one minute intervals, whisking well in between, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes and usually takes me three. Don’t worry if it seems a little thin, it’ll thicken up as it cools. Pour into a bell jar or a Tupperware container and store in the fridge. Simple and delicious!

Note: if you cook it a bit too long and there are cooked egg bits in it, just push it through a strainer. It’s a pain but it will save your concoction!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Man, it's been awhile since I've posted! Which is weird, since I haven't really been doing anything special... well, I've been at the pool a ton! It's been so nice lately, usually in the low to mid 80's and it's perfect for laying out in the sun at the pool. Especially with a beer or a rum & organic soda by your side!! (doesn't quite have the same ring as rum & coke, eh?)

However, if there's anything I love more (well, at least as much as!) than being nice and warm at the pool, it's BACON! Sweet & salty, chewy & crispy... seriously, what is better than some [good] bacon?!? Nothing, that's what! So when I was tasked with coming up with a portable dinner for The Hub and I to tote along to a concert-in-the-park it was super easy to come up with a dish... BLTs!

These BLT's are sooooo delicious and it's for three reasons: using quality bacon (not the $3 a pack kind), the way the bacon is seasoned and cooked, and the seasoned mayonnaise. Also, I suppose the bread is kindof important. And using good, ripened tomatoes. Well, I guess when it's only 5 ingredients all of them are pretty important!

These are good when the bacon is hot, but they're just as good at room temperature which is why they make great picnic fare. Remember to use organic ingredients whenever you can! They almost always taste better, and they're usually fresher!!!

BLT's with Rosemary Mayo

Bacon, 8-10 slices
brown sugar
black pepper
cayenne pepper

1/4 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
3/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
dash of salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 slices of bread
lettuce (I like red leaf)
1-2 tomatoes, sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Place a cooling rack on a foil-lined baking sheet and arrange the slices of bacon on the rack. Sprinkle the slices with the brown sugar, black pepper and cayenne - use your judgement depending on how sweet/spicy you want it. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until crispy. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the mayo and the rest of the spices and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Once the bacon is done and cool enough to handle you can assemble the sandwiches. Slather each of the bread slices with the mayo, and then layer on the sliced tomato, the lettuce and the bacon. I like the bacon in the middle, but you can layer it any way you like. Delish!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shrimp in the Street

So yesterday was an awesome spring day! I woke up late, dallied on the internet, and then spent the afternoon on the beach with one of my girlfriends. Of course, it was only the beach at the lake, but that's better than nothing, right? Why is going to the beach so relaxing? Lying in the sun, reading and relaxing and listening to the [in this case, small] waves lapping at the shoreline. Is there anything more perfect?

When I got home, I did a small amount of half-hearted cleaning. My neighbor's son, who's 4, actually helped me vacuum... and was excited about it! Wish I was... no, actually, that'd be a bit weird! Next, I went to the store to get some stuff for an impromptu shrimp fry in the street orchestrated by the neighbors.

After about 15 minutes of serious debating on what I should contribute, I decided to make an avocado and mandarin orange salad with honey-lime dressing. Of course, almost none of the ingredients were organic because I didn't want to drive 30 minutes away, but despite my guilt it was still delicious. I chopped my avocado really small, and I wish I wouldn't have. I think the flavor impact would have been much better had I been thinking more about what I was doing instead of chatting with the neighbors and downing pineapple-infused tequila shots! They are such a bad influence, my neighbors! I must've been thinking a little bit, though, for I used a whole-grain mustard w/ garlic and I think it added tons of flavor. Of course, if you aren't obsessed with mustard like The Hub is, you could just use regular whole-grain mustard and add a clove of finely diced garlic.

All the food was sooo good! We had fried shrimp and crawfish, french fries, my salad, baked beans and mac & cheese. Yum! I think I gained about 10 pounds eating so much of everything!! but it was DEFINITELY worth it! All in all, I think we had four pounds of shrimp and a pound of crawfish. And among 7 adults and a handful of kids, we ate every last bite! We definitely know how to eat on the street!

Avocado and Mandarin Orange Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing

2 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard with garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch salt
1/4 cup olive oil

2 hearts of romaine, shredded
2 small bunches of scallions, or 1 large bunch, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 avocado, diced into pieces just a little smaller than the mandarin oranges

Make the dressing: In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the dressing, minus the olive oil. Once thoroughly combined, slowly pour the oil in, whisking briskly. You can also pour everything into a jar and shake to combine.

Make the salad: Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and drizzle with the dressing, tossing to coat. Yum!

Note: If you're not going to serve the salad immediately, then don't add the dressing until you are and be sure to coat the avocado in a teaspoon of the lime juice so that it doesn't brown.