Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cupcake in a jar

Coconut Cake with Mango Curd and Vanilla Frosting

Sitting at a Starbucks while eating this dessert and blogging.  This is exactly why cupcake in a jar is genius.  It beats getting your hands messy or worrying about getting cake stuck in your teeth.  The beauty is, if you are having a sweet tooth but don't want to eat an entire cupcake; take a bite and stick it in the fridge.  My cupcake in a jar is made with a basic yellow cake drizzled with coconut cream, sprinkled with unsweetened coconut flakes.  The mango curd compliments the coconut and vanilla frosting giving you a little hint of the tropics.  Take it to the park or the beach and add it to your picnic.

Coconut Cake with Mango Curd and Vanilla Frosting Cupcake In A Jar Recipe


For the cake:
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus more for pans, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
5 eggs

For the mango curd:
1 cup mango pulp
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks

For the frosting:
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh coconut cream
3 cups flaked unsweetened coconut

1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 13"x9″ cake trays, and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in 3 batches and wet ingredients in 2 batches. Increase speed to high, and beat until batter is smooth, about 5 seconds. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth top with a rubber spatula; drop pans lightly on a counter to expel large air bubbles. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Let cakes cool for 20 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks, and let cool. Using the top of the jar as a cake cutter, cut rounds to fit perfectly inside your jar.

2. Make the frosting: Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form; turn mixer off. Bring sugar, syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup tap water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar; attach a candy thermometer to side of pan, and cook, without stirring, until thermometer reads 250°, 4–5 minutes. Turn mixer to medium speed, and very slowly drizzle hot syrup into beating egg whites. Add vanilla, and increase speed to high; beat until meringue forms stiff peaks and is slightly warm to the touch, about 3 minutes.

3. To make the curd: the night before. puree first 4 ingredients in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve. Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°f., about 10 minutes. Remove from over water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4. To assemble, place one cake circle inside the jar and press down, drizzle with 1 tsp. coconut cream,  sprinkle with coconut flakes, spread with 1 tbsp frosting, and another cake circle, cream and flakes; top with 1 tbsp mango curd, then repeat cake, cream and flake process. Cover top with frosting, and sprinkle with coconut, pressing it lightly to adhere; chill cake to firm frosting. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Adapted from Saveur Magazine

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eid Recipes

Dark Chocolate Valrhona Cupcakes with Mango Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Dark chocolate cake meets sweet mango buttercream.  Why not mix high quality chocolate with a classic South Asian dessert flavor?  The ultimate Eid cupcake.

What is Valrhona Chocolate?  Valrhona focuses mainly on high-grade luxury chocolate marketed for professional as well as for private consumption.  Valrhona produces vintage chocolate made from beans of a single year's harvest from a specific plantation, primarily the Grand Crus which is grown in South America, Oceania and the Caribbean.  Yes, it's pricey...but worth the money on such a joyous occasion.

When making this cupcake I originally decided to have a mango curd filling.  After tasting the rich chocolate cake and the mango buttercream together I thought it may become overwhelming, so I decided not to add it.  I couldn't help but smile to think about how my family would react to a mango buttercream and chocolate.  Their reaction was priceless!  Ah, the simple pleasures of life.  Okay, enough about that.  The recipe is posted below, but first the therapy portion of this blog...

Therapeutic topic of the week:

Stress and Alcohol. Gender, family history, and parenting influence drinking behavior. Children in families with multiple risk factors are at greater risk for alcohol abuse or dependence. Some of these risk factors include growing up with parents who: are dependent on alcohol, have coexisting psychological disorders, or use alcohol to cope with stress. Some studies show that regardless of a family history of alcoholism, a lack of parental monitoring, severe and recurrent family conflict, and poor parent-child relationships can contribute to alcohol abuse in adolescents. Children with conduct disorders, poor socialization, and ineffective coping skills as well as those with little connection to parents, other family members, or school may be at an increased risk for alcohol abuse or dependence.

Research and population surveys have shown that people under stress, particularly chronic stress, tend to show signs of more unhealthy behaviors than less-stressed people. Stressed people drink more alcohol, smoke more, and eat less nutritious foods than non-stressed individuals. Many people report drinking alcohol in response to various types of stress, and the amount of drinking in response to stress is related to the severity of the life stressors and the individuals' lack of social support networks. 

A challenging question that continues to be unanswered in the field of addiction is why some individuals are more vulnerable to substance use disorders than others. “Numerous risk factors for alcohol and other drugs of abuse, including exposure to various forms of stress, have been identified in clinical studies. However, the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie this relationship remain unclear. Critical neurotransmitters, hormones and neurobiological sites have been recognized, which may provide the substrates that convey individual differences in vulnerability to addiction” (Uhart & Wand, 2009). More sophisticated brain measures are helping researchers understand what effect alcohol has on specific hormones in the brain.

Alcoholism is a complex medical condition that is believed to be caused by a number of both hereditary and environmental factors. While stress is not considered to be a cause of alcoholism, stressful experiences may lead to relapse of the disease in those who already suffer from alcoholism. 

Dark Chocolate Valrhona Cupcakes with Mango Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe


For the batter:
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
Pinch sea salt
1 cup Valrhona Cocoa Powder
1/3 tsp. baking soda
1/3 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 large whole egg
3 tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup coffee, warm

For the buttercream:
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup mango pulp (from ripe pureed and strained mangos)

Sift all dry ingredients together into a bowl.  In separate bowl mix eggs and buttermilk.  Melt butter in a pot and then add the coffee.  Add to butter/coffee mixture to the buttermilk mixture. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and mix until just combined, about 1 minute (do not over mix).  Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, portion into cupcake molds. Fill about 1/2 way up.  Bake at 325F for approx 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center to check for doneness.

Meanwhile, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla and mango pulp. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day.

Frost cupcakes and decorate as desired.

Cupcake recipe from Derek Poirier
Buttercream recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Monday, August 13, 2012

Heavenly Chocolate and Caramel

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

Want delicious mouth watering cupcakes?  Try salted caramel.  Ever wonder why salted caramel is such a crowd pleaser?  The flavors of salty and sweet are balanced leaving you satisfied with just one cupcake (or maybe two).  Caramel is great on it's own but add salt and suddenly its a grown up treat. Making your own caramel can take time but the end result is worth the effort.  This cupcake is a chocolate cake with a salted caramel filling and a salted caramel buttercream.  The trick here is to try to leave enough caramel to complete the cupcakes (and stop licking your spoon along the way).  It is also a great cupcake to share during Ramadan or for Eid.

Therapeutic topic of the week:
Depression. There are many models and theories that have had success in treating depressive symptoms. The most effective research based treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Many therapeutic methods have been studied, but cognitive-behavioral therapy is the only modality that has been shown to work effectively. In fact, treatment of depression through cognitive-behavioral methods has the capacity to produce long-lasting, permanent relief from the sadness and loneliness. Depression responds to relatively short-term therapy, depending on the severity of the condition. CBT has a good evidence base in terms of its effectiveness in reducing symptoms and preventing relapse. It has been clinically demonstrated in over 400 studies to be effective for many psychiatric disorders and medical problems for both children and adolescents.

Relaxation techniques help individuals develop the ability to more effectively cope with the stresses that contribute to depression, as well as with some of the physical symptoms of stress. The techniques taught include breath re-training and exercise. Help to bring your body and mind more regularly into a state of relaxation and calm by practicing simple relaxation exercises, ideally on a regular basis to establish a steady relaxing routine at least in part of your life. Practicing relaxation techniques can improve how you physically respond to stress by: slowing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, slowing your breathing rate, reducing the need for oxygen, increasing blood flow to major muscles, and reducing muscle tension.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe


For the cupcakes:
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup greek yogurt

For the filling:
2½ cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
¾ cup heavy cream, warmed
2¼ tsp. fleur de sel

For the frosting:
1¼ cup sugar, divided
5 tbsp. water
5 tbsp. heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
5 large egg whites
3¾ sticks (30 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature


To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth. In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.

Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the yogurt, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

To make the filling, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted into a syrup. Stop stirring and gently swirl the pan, using a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe down any bits of sugar stuck to the sides of the pan. Continue to boil, swirling occasionally, until the mixture is a deep amber color and it registers 340˚ F on the thermometer. Very slowly pour in the cream in a slow, steady stream down the inside edge of the pan, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt.

Let the caramel filling mixture cool just until very slightly thickened and cool enough to handle. Carefully transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip and inject a small amount of filling directly into the center of each cupcake.

To make the caramel buttercream, place ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Mix in the water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color, watching it carefully to avoid burning. Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt. Set aside and let cool.

Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more. Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe a swirl of frosting on each cupcake. When you are ready to serve, top each cupcake with a salted caramel or Valrhona pearls if desired.

Slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mini Pies

Mini Cherry Pies
A pie is only as good as it's crust.  Ever feel like there is too much filling and not enough flaky, buttery crust?  Maybe you are craving pie but you don't want to make the whole dessert?  Sometimes pies can be large and overwhelming - especially when cooking for two.  These miniature cherry pies give you best of both worlds combining a classic dessert into a bite size portion.  Sweet and tart cherry filling made from organic cherries whose size justifies a second helping!  Anne Thornton's recipe makes creating homemade cherry pie filling easy and quick.  This crust is perfectly flaky and buttery as a crust should be.  A great way to serve individual desserts and impress guests.

Stress relief tip of the week:
Practice living in the now. Make a conscious attempt to live in the present moment and let go of what happened in the past or stop worrying about the future.

Many times clients come in to my office presenting depressive and anxiety symptoms.  After gathering information we are able to make connections between their thoughts and feelings.  Often times they may be holding on to something in their past which is hindering them to move on with their lives.  Letting go is an action we strive to achieve but can be more difficult than we imagined.  In order to practice living in the now we also need to have a level of acceptance.  Forgetting what we are holding on to may not be realistic. However, learning from the experience and acknowledging that this experience is contributed to who you are is acceptance and will help you live in the now.

Mini Cherry Pie Recipe

Pie Crust:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for bench and cutters
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed
4 cups fresh pitted cherries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest

For the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter. Pulse the processor until the mixture resembles fine sand. Remove the lid and add the ice water to the mixture. Run the processor just until the mixture rolls itself into a little ball. If the mixture is a bit dry, add more ice water by the tablespoonful until it comes together. Gather the dough into a ball. With a bench scraper or knife, divide the mixture evenly in half. Shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.

Cook's Note: At this point you can keep the wrapped dough in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze for later use.

For the filling: In a saucepan, combine the pitted cherries and 1 cup water over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Using a whisk, swirl the ingredients together, making sure that there aren't any lumps in the cornstarch. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and lemon zest to the cherries. Cook the cherry mixture until it comes to a rolling boil. Cook 1 minute more, until thickened. Allow the cherry filling to cool slightly while you prepare the crust.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin or 2 (12 cup) mini muffin tins with cooking spray.

Roll the dough disks out into 10-inch rounds on a well-floured work surface. With a 1 1/2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, edge lightly dipped in flour, cut 24 rounds from the first rolled out disk. With a 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, edge lightly dipped in flour, cut 24 rounds from the second rolled out disk. You should have a total of 24 (1 1/2-inch) rounds and 24 (2-inch) rounds for matching top and bottom crusts.

Gently fit the 2-inch dough rounds into the bottom of the prepared mini muffin tin. Make sure to pat down the bottom and the excess coming up the sides. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon cooled pie filling into each crust-lined cup. Fit the top of each mini pie with a 1 1/2-inch dough round, pushing down gently and sealing the bottom crust and top crust by crimping the edges together with a fork. With a sharp paring knife, make 3 small incisions on the top crust, to allow the steam to escape.

Bake until the edges are golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack, and then remove from the muffin tin.

Recipe from Anne Thornton

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