Lemon-Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Lemon Curd & Meringue

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My friend Erika was celebrating her birthday today and I wanted to make her something delicious and pretty. Cupcakes always seem to bring a smile to people’s faces and are fairly easy enough to make that even I can do them. My next pantry project is to use up the huge container of poppy seeds I bought two years ago when I needed just a pinch to garnish scallop carpaccio. I love lemon poppy seed cake so I decided to do a cupcake version of it. Meringue frosting would add a unique twist to it and look beautiful. Then I thought why not stuff it with lemon curd? In the end this cupcake became a perfect smashup of lemon poppy seed cake and lemon meringue tart.

I used Joy of Baking’s vanilla cupcake recipe as the foundation and added the bright lemon flavor to it. The lemon curd was store bought to save some sanity on my part. I had a little taster of the cupcake and it was delicious! I loved the lemon flavor of course and the crunchy poppy seeds added a great texture and also a nice visual effect once the cupcake liner was peeled off prior to devouring. But he toasted meringue frosting was the cherry on top though. Aerated, glossy, and nicely browned just on the edges.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Lemon Curd & Meringue Frosting
makes 12 regular cupcakes

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) buttermilk
2 tbsp lemon zest
juice of half lemon
3 tbsp poppy seeds
about 1/2 cup of lemon curd

Meringue
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixer cream sugar, butter and lemon zest. Add eggs one by one until incorporated.
In another bowl whisk flour, baking powder, poppy seeds and salt.
Add half of the dry mix, then buttermilk, then remaining dry mix and lemon juice. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated.
Line cupcake pan and divide batter evenly.
Bake for 18-20 minutes and then cool on a rack.
Once cupcakes are completely cool stuff each cupcake with a generous teaspoon of lemon curd. I used the cone method from Cupcake Bakeshop by the talented Chockylit.

Now make the meringue by beating the egg whites. When it gets foamy add cream of tartar and slowly start adding the sugar. Beat until hard peaks. Use your favorite piping tip to apply the meringue to the cupcake. I used a #4 open star tip and then broiled it just enough to get the ridges nicely toasted.

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Lan’s Pork Ribs

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Way back in November I attended my friend Terence’s surprise birthday party down at his parents’ place in the O.C. There was a huge group of us and there was a even bigger spread of food courtesy of his culinarily talented mom. Everything was so delicious but I was hooked on her ribs. I ate one too many with must get her recipe running through my mind. Luckily I was able to get my hands on the recipe without any finagling.

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Port Poached Figs & Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

port poached figs & creme fraiche ice cream

This dish of the fig series was my favorite surprisingly. I say this because I hardly thought anything exciting of poached figs. But what I underestimated was how the tangy creme fraiche ice cream would pair up with the warm soft figs and the perfectly complementary port syrup. I absolutely love creme fraiche in or paired with dessert because the tang cuts through some the sweetness and balances it out. This is exactly what happened with the warm slightly spiced port syrup and the creamy tangy creme fraiche ice cream. Loved the combination.

Creme Fraiche Ice Cream
recipe from Epicurious

1 cup half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 cup crème fraîche

Combine half and half and cream in heavy large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and yolks in large bowl until thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually beat in warm cream mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on spoon when finger is drawn across, about 6 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat. Cool 15 minutes. Discard vanilla bean. Whisk in crème fraîche. Cover and chill custard until cold, about 3 hours.

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to covered container. Freeze until firm.

*I used only heavy cream for the base instead of the mix with the half-and-half.

Figs Poached in Port
recipe from Sara’s Secrets

3 cups tawny port
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (3-inch) strips orange peel
8 whole black peppercorns
12 black mission figs, ripe yet firm

Combine the port sugar, vanilla pods and seeds, cinnamon, orange peel and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer until the liquid has the consistency of a light syrup, about 20 minutes. You will have about 1 1/2 cups of syrup. Add the figs and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool the figs in the syrup. Serve the figs in a bowl with their juices spooned over.

*I used ruby port because that’s what I had at home.

Fig Financiers

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I had my first financier from Boule not too long ago and man was it good. It was apricot, it was buttery, it was heaven. Thought I’d give it a whirl using figs plus I was looking for a recipe to use up my almond meal which has been sitting unused in my pantry for too long. I used the recipe from Joy of Baking website and added about 4 diced figs. Financiers have A LOT of butter in it I warn you but if it didn’t it wouldn’t be so good nor would it be a proper financier. They are by the way little French tea cakes supposedly first made in the financial area of Paris, baked in little rectangle pans that made them shaped like little bricks of gold. They are addicting. I’ve never looked so forward to baking something again. Of course this does no good for my healthy eating plan..

Financier
Joy of Baking

1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) (85 grams) beurre noisette (will need 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter)
1/4 cup (35 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) almond flour (meal) or ground blanched almonds
3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh berries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the center of the oven. Place the almond flour (meal) or blanched almonds on a baking sheet and bake 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. If you are using the whole almonds process in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Place 12 rectangular or boat shaped molds on a large baking sheet. (Can also use 12 mini muffin molds.)

To make the beurre noisette: In order to end up with 1/3 cup beurre noisette, place 1/2 cup unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium low heat. Once the butter has melted let it come to a boil. As it boils you will notice that a foam will appear on the surface. Continue to cook the butter until it looks clear and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan and have turned dark brown. Remove from heat and immediately strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Let cool to room temperature before using. You will have more than 1/3 cup of beurre noisette. Use the remaining beurre noisette to grease the molds. Using a pastry brush lightly grease the molds and allow the butter to set. Set aside while you make the batter.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, ground almonds, powdered sugar and salt. Fold in the lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla, and the 1/3 cup beurre noisette. Fill each mold almost to the rim and bake for 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and place a few berries on top of each. Return the molds to the oven and bake a further 5-7 minutes or until the Financiers have become light brown on top and are springy to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. These are best eaten the same day you make them. (The batter will keep a few days in the refrigerator.)

Makes 12 Financiers.

Plum Raspberry Crumble with Vanilla-Buttermilk Ice Cream

plum & raspberry crisp

plum & raspberry crisp a la mode (vanilla buttermilk ice cream)

It’s summertime and fruits are abundant at the farmer’s market. I stopped by the Culver City one to pick up some plums to make Barefoot Contessa’s Plum Raspberry Crumble. I’m not a huge plum fan and hadn’t eaten one in years but I decided to give it another go. Plus I love crumbles especially when it’s still warm. Yum.

A simple whipped cream with a tinge of creme fraiche would have been delicious and easy but going a la mode with a warm crumble sounds great too. A bite of warm crumble with a crunchy buttery topping with a spoonful of tangy ice cream made happiness in mah mouth.

Vanilla Buttermilk Ice Cream
[slightly adapted from Epicurious]

2 cup heavy cream
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 cup cold buttermilk
1/2 vanilla bean

Bring whipping cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out seeds with a knife and add to the pot of cream. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream into egg yolk mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and stir over medium heat until custard thickens slightly, about 6 minutes (do not boil). Strain into bowl. Stir in cold buttermilk. Cool in an ice bath. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze at least 3 hours.

Nectarine Turnovers with Dried Blueberries

nectarine turnover w/dried blueberries

I panicked the day spring became summer. I realized no asparagus had passed through my kitchen, not enough cherries had graced the table, no fava beans had been depodded, blanched & peeled. What a bad cook I’ve been.

I promptly added asparagus and bing cherries onto my grocery list only to be thwarted by my own laziness. What I really wanted to make were cherry turnovers. But what I really didn’t want to do was pit cherries. The cherries were a pinch to pit for that tart I made back in early June but still my own mind crushed my cherry idea.

Instead I picked up nectarines which would require only a quick chopping. I was only motivated to make turnovers because of the fact that I had 1/2 of Thomas Keller’s buttery pastry dough in my freezer. I’m thinking maybe it would be a good idea to make a bunch of dough at once and keep it in storage.

That may result in many tarts, pies & turnovers though. That could be a good or a bad thing.

Nectarine Turnovers with Dried Blueberries
makes 4 good-sized turnovers

1/2 chilled Thomas Keller’s buttery pastry dough
2 nectarines
2-3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1 tsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
4 tsp turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven 375 degrees.
2. Chop nectarines about 1/3 inch cubes. No need to be exact, just not too big as to poke holes in the dough and not too small as to become mush.
3. Toss with 2 tbsp of sugar and taste. Is it sweet enough? If not add more.
4. Toss with blueberries, salt and cornstarch.
5. Divide dough into 4 balls and roll out on a floured board. While you work on one keep the others in the fridge. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick and into a circular shape. Again, no need to be exact. I think mine came out to be around 6 to 7 inches or so.
6. Divide the fruit mixture evenly among the four rolled out dough without getting too much juice onto the dough. Eggwash the edges and crimp, eggwash the top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake for about 20-25 minutes.
7. Serve warm with chilled cream or creme fraiche. Or if you wanna cut down on the fat consume with a cold glass of reduced fat milk. I don’t go lower than reduced fat. That’s a rule.

Romesco Pulled Pork Reborn, Part 2

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I came across Yves Camdeborde’s recipe for savory buckwheat crepes while food surfing the web. Brilliant I thought, this would be a perfect way to use up my romesco pulled pork.

I stuffed my crepes with the shredded pork, parmesan, avocado and arugula. I really wanted to use manchego in the crepes but since I had grated parmesan in my fridge that I’ve had forever I practiced some food shopping restraint this time.

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Romesco Pulled Pork Reborn, Part 1

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Back in May I was left with a large container of romesco pulled pork, leftovers from an event that I did. I ended up freezing it because I had way too much other stuff in my fridge that needed my attention asap. But now is the time! I came up with a few dishes the pork would be useful for.

First up I have a hash. I love hash! Especially if it comes with piles of house-made corned beef. But romesco pulled pork is not a bad substitute at all. I finished this dish in the oven to cook the egg I cracked over the top of the potatoes and pork. The egg cooked up perfectly with the yolk still creamy in the middle and edges of the pulled pork all crusty and brown. The best part was when I picked up a crusty string of romesco pulled pork and poked it into the yolk. Ahh yeah.

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