Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mini Pecan Tarts with Mascarpone Frosting and Glazed Pecans

Mini Pecan Tarts ButterYum
Mini Pecan Tarts Topped with Mascarpone and Glazed Pecans - ButterYum
Sorry for the lack of posts this past week.  Too busy to spend any time in the kitchen, so I thought I'd post these wonderful gems again.  They were a huge hit last year (wish I had time to make more).  

This is a killer recipe!  Some of you know that I'm a little OCD in the kitchen (wish that would seep into other areas of my life!!).  I researched and tweaked and fussed and retweaked for what seemed like an eternity before I was satisfied with these, but they were definitely worth the effort (and let me say this, I have a whole new appreciation for cookbook authors after this project!).  The masses absolutely devoured these little treasures, so I hope you'll give them a try sometime.

To begin the recipe, let's make this very easy crust. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine room temperature butter and cream cheese; blend using the flat beater attachment (or better yet, use the fabulous BeaterBlade!). When butter and cream cheese are combined, add salt, cocoa, and flour; combine. Dough will be soft, but easy to handle.

Spray a mini muffin pan with an oil/flour baking spray. Roll dough into 24 balls and place into muffin pan. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, or until it firms up enough to not be too sticky to work with.

Press dough into muffin indentations using your fingers or a pastry tool dipped in flour. Pop the dough back into the fridge if it starts getting too soft, and also while making the filling.

Because these mini tarts are so tiny, be sure to chop your pecans into small pieces.

Combine butter, cane syrup (or corn syrup), salt, and confectioner's sugar in heavy bottomed sauce pan over med-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for one full minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer hot sugar mixture to a glass measure and pour or spoon mix into prepared pan, being very careful to not fill them more than 3/4 full (so you don't have a hot, bubbly mess on your hands).

No matter how hard you try, you'll probably have some filling bubble over the sides of the tarts during baking. If this happens to you, you can easily trim away any excess caramel with a pair of kitchen scissors. Allow the tarts tarts to finish cooling while we make the glazed pecans and Mascarpone frosting.

Okay, let's do the glazed pecans first (incidentally, you can do this with just about any kind of nut). Have you ever tasted Lyle's Golden Syrup? It's a sugar cane syrup that has the most wonderful caramel flavor and color. Look for it in your baking aisle. If you can't find it... you can substitute corn syrup or honey.

In a heat proof bowl, mix the granulated sugar and sugar cane syrup together. Microwave on high for 10-20 seconds until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is very liquidy. Quickly pour over nuts and toss to coat.

Place the nuts in a single layer on a silicone baking mat and toss them into the oven for 15 minutes; tossing once half way through the baking.

Golden Syrup Glazed Pecans - ButterYum
Use a fork to separate glazed nuts after removing them from the oven. Allow to cool completely before using. Can be made a day or two ahead and stored in an airtight container.  Don't place on the mascarpone frosting until just before they are served (the moisture in the frosting will liquefy the glaze).

For the Mascarpone frosting, combine room temperature Mascarpone cheese, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract by hand. Pipe swirls of the frosting on tarts that have been allowed to cool completely; refrigerate. Just before serving, top with glazed nut and serve immediately.

Mini Pecan Tarts Topped with Mascarpone and Glazed Pecans - ButterYum

Mini Pecan Tarts Topped with Mascarpone Frosting and Glazed Pecans

makes 24 tarts

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder for color (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the flat beater, combine the butter and cream cheese. Slowly add the salt, confectioner's sugar, flour, and optional cocoa powder; combine. Divide into 24 equal portions, roll into ball shape; place in a greased mini muffin pan. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes before pressing dough into the mini muffin cups using fingers or a pastry tool dipped in flour. Refrigerate while making the filling.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (or corn syrup)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine everything but the vanilla extract. Bring to a boil for one full minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour mixture into prepared pastry, filling no more than 3/4 full. Place mini muffin pan on a larger sheet pan to catch any drips that might spill over. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Allow tarts to cool in pan for 25 minutes before removing. Trim excess caramel with kitchen scissors if needed (while the caramel is still pliable).

Mascarpone Frosting
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix ingredients together by hand. Pipe or spoon onto completely cool tarts. Refrigerate.
Don't add the glaze pecans until serving time.

Glazed Pecans
1/2 cup pecans
1 tablespoon Lyle's Golden Syrup (can sub corn syrup or honey)
1 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
pinch of fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine sugar cane syrup, salt, and granulated sugar in a heat safe bowl and microwave on high for 10-20 seconds until sugar dissolves and mixture is very liquidy. Immediately pour over nuts and stir to combine. Place nuts in a single layer on a silicone lined sheet pan (greased foil or non-stick foil will also work). Bake nuts for 15 minutes, tossing half way through baking. Remove nuts from the oven and use a fork to separate them from one another; cool completely. Can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store in an airtight container. Top tarts with glazed pecans just before service, otherwise the glaze will start to melt into the Mascarpone frosting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How To Neatly Open a Pomegranate

How to Neatly Open a Pomegranate - ButterYum
I've shared my love of fresh pomegranates with you in the past, but I haven't shown you how to get all those yummy juice filled arils (seeds) out of them.  Some people like to cut them in half, which is fine, but it cuts right through a ton of those juicy arils.  Here's what I do - first I cover my tablecloth with newspaper (the food section works particularly well).  I also put on a grubby shirt, just in case ;).  

Okay, now I'm ready to get started.  I make a very shallow x-cut in the top, being very careful not to cut deep enough to pierce any of the arils. 

Next I follow the lines of the x-cut down the sides of the pomegranate, using just the tip of the knife to score the skin (again, not going deep enough to cut any of the arils).

Then I gently pry the pomegranate apart where I made the x-cut (a blunt butter knife might be helpful the first time you do this).  Once you get your thumbs in, it will pull apart very easily.  You can see the entire pomegranate is filled with hundreds of juicy arils separated by layers of a papery thin membrane.

The arils come out very easily, leaving just the skin and membrane behind.  One word of caution - I once did an entire case of these at one time and my hands were dry and stained for a couple of days afterward.  I don't bother to wear gloves when I open just one, but I would if I were to open a large number of them again.

Juice Filled Pomegranate Arils - ButterYum
And here are the arils.  I got just over 1 1/2 cups worth from this pomegranate.  We sometimes sprinkle them on salads or desserts, but our favorite way to eat them is just the way they are.

The next time you see a pomegranate at the store, I hope you'll give it a try!

Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake

Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake - ButterYum
This week's Heavenly Cake Bakers selection is the Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake.  No, there is no such thing as a Swedish Pear (at least not here in the US).  The cookbook author was inspired to make this cake after eating something similar while visiting Sweden.  Anyway, I love the flavor of pears and almond cream, so I was really looking forward to making this cake.  The batter is easy to prepare; like a basic sour cream pound cake.  Before going into the oven, the batter is topped with almond cream and very thinly sliced Bartlett pears.  The pears and almond cream sink to the bottom of the pan during baking, which makes for a very interesting layered look when plated.

My review:  the pear and almond cream layer is truly phenomenal; moist and bursting with amazing flavor.  The rest of the cake is fine on it's own, but rather dry and flavorless compared to the pear/almond layer.  Too bad there's such a disconnect between the layers.  I may play around with the recipe a bit to see if I can get the wonderful qualities of the pear and almond layer to distribute better throughout the entire cake.  Doing so would certainly make this cake a home run, but I doubt I'd repeat this recipe as is.

As most of you know, the recipes reviewed by the Heavenly Cake Bakers are not shared, but they can be found in Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Apple Butter Spice Cake

Apple Butter Spice Cake - ButterYum
If you happen to find yourself with leftover apple butter, here's a great way to use it up.  This cake is very moist and sweet with a praline-like layer inside.  The recipe is baked in a Bundt pan, but it can also be baked in a 9x13 cake pan (directions below).

Apple Butter Spice Cake
Makes 1 bundt cake (or one 9x13 cake)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup apple butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup wheat germ or whole bran cereal
1 cup sour cream

Crumb Mixture: (double if making a 9x13 cake)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Mom Cave

Welcome to my Mom Cave.

Susan at Between Naps on the Porch is hosting a Mom Cave party sponsored by HomeGoods.  I've never been to a HomeGoods, but I like their commercials.  Dear HomeGoods, Please come to my town!!

When I first started thinking about which space in the house I would call  my Mom Cave, my office came to mind.  It houses my desk and computer.  And my cookbook collection.

It's bright.

And sunny.

And Misty will tell you there's a big comfy couch and matching ottoman for reading or napping.  But after I thought about it for a while, I came to the conclusion that my real Mom Cave is my kitchen.

It's not the biggest kitchen I've ever had, but I love it and I happily spend a lot of time in it.

I love my range - it's my baby.  Hubby bought it for me when we built our last house, and I was very happy to have it moved half way across the country when we bought this house.

 I like these guys too - Mr. and Mrs. KitchenAid.  I prefer using the 5-quart white one for making things like bread doughs and cake batters, while I prefer the 6-quart model for making big batches of buttercream or focaccia.  Sometimes I use them both at the same time, like when I'm making a wedding cake.  I have extra bowls, beaters, and whisks for each - they come in very handy.

My dishwasher has a stainless steel interior.  It's very quiet and no tomato stains!!  It gets quite a workout here - I do at least 2 loads a day, sometimes more. 

I really enjoy the granite counters - very low maintenance.  My only real complaint about the kitchen is the fact that there are no outside windows.  It can get kind of dark, especially on a dreary day like today, so we had under cabinet lighting installed throughout.

I custom ordered this cherry and walnut cutting board from the guy who makes a lot of the boards you see on the food network.  It's huge and I can chop tons of veggies on it with room to spare.

More counters... and the sink.  I really would have liked a single bowl sink, but our builder installed this thing instead.  It's hard to wash large platters and sheet trays with that divider in the way, but what's done is done.  You can't see them, but there are saddle stools on the other side of the peninsula.  I prefer to work in the kitchen solo, but I don't mind if you watch.  It's a nice spot to sit with my laptop and research recipes or prepare my next blog post.

This little counter is right next to the oven.  It's where I keep my olive oil selection, salt and pepper, onions, garlic, and shallots.  And my rotating cake stand, of course!

Wanna peek in some of my cabinets and drawers?

This is my baking cabinet.  I like it to stay organized which is pretty easy to do since I'm the only one who goes in there.  Except for the chocolate chips on the to shelf - hubby treats himself to a handful just about every day (I would never have left that bag like that, but I'm too short to reach it, and I know he'll get into again tomorrow, so I don't worry about it).  Anyway, this is where I store kitchen twine, baking spices, cocoas, various extracts and French essence, vanilla beans, a zillions kinds of decorative sugar, liquid measures, etc.

This is my baking drawer.  It houses several sets of measuring cups and spoons, piping tips, pastry brushes, a pastry blender, a stainless steel ruler, hand mixer attachments, a big cake lifter thingy, and 6 cookie scoops in various sizes.

My spice drawer.  Again, it stays neat because I'm the only one who goes in there.

Here's my bulk spice and tea cabinet.  Popcorn too... we love our popcorn.

I'm short and have an especially hard time reaching anything in this corner cabinet, so I store items that I don't use very often in here.  Cake pedestals, extra mixer bowls, water pitchers, crystal bowls and vases, etc.

My mixing bowls and various pie plates are down low for easy access.  I have a thing for pretty pie plates.

Some of my specialty cake pans.  I have another cabinet that holds just round pans in every size imaginable.

Everyday dishes and storage containers.  I added wire shelves to maximize storage.

Under the kitchen sink is another organizer shelf thing.  It's adjustable and I like that I was able to conform it around the pipes and garbage disposal.  I love that I can hang spray bottles on it.
There are two lazy Susan cabinets.  This one houses small appliances that I don't use very often.  I didn't get a picture of the other one, but that's where I store my flours, sugars, rice, etc.

This is the original pantry that came with the house - too small to be my pantry, but it works great as a storage closet for my pots and pans, crock pots, sheet trays, bulk onion and potato storage, etc.

This is a pantry we built to replace the tiny inadequate pantry the house came with - I can see everything at a glance.  This was a huge improvement to the functionality of the kitchen.

Well, that's about it.  I'll walk you to the door, but first check out my gelpro mat.  Ceramic floors are not very comfortable to stand on, so this baby makes my feet feel oh so good.  If you've been thinking about getting one of these, go for it!  I can't imagine going back to life without one.

Thanks for visiting.