Friday, August 27, 2010

Easy Pina Colada Cake

Do you ever feel like being lazy?  Sometimes I feel like eating cake... but I'm just not motivated enough to pull out my super secret cookbook and bake a whole cake from scratch.  During those times, I cheat.

Who says you can't get a good cake out of a mix?  This easy Pina Colada cake is a pinch to make with just a few pantry ingredients.

Easy Pina Colada Cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 can pineapple
3 eggs
1/2 c. oil
2 T. dark rum
1 can canned coconut cream pie filling, 1/4 c. removed

Cream Cheese Frosting:
12 oz. cream cheese
1 1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. coconut cream pie filling
1 1/2 c. shredded coconut

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease two 9" round cake pans.
2.  Drain the pineapple juice from the can into a measuring cup.  You should have about 3/4 c. of juice.  Chop up the remaining pineapple, and add to the measuring cup until you have just a little over 1 1/4 c.  Set aside the remaining pineapple for other use.
 3.  Combine the cake mix, pineapple juice + chopped pineapple, eggs, oil, and rum into a smooth batter.

4.  Divide the batter between the two cake pans.
5.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes before inverting to a wire rack.  Cool completely before frosting.

6.  Allow the cream cheese to sit on the counter until room temperature.  Combine with powdered sugar and the reserved 1/4 c. coconut cream pie filling until a smooth frosting.
7.  Place 1 layer of cake on a large plate.  Top with the coconut cream pie filling.  Place the second layer of cake on top.  Frost the sides and top with the cream cheese frosting.  Holding the cake over a large bowl, apply the shredded coconut to the sides, and the sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Italian Beef Roulade Steak: Braciole

Does anyone know what Braciole is?  I've never heard of it, nor have I had it before... until I saw it on TV and was curious enough to look it up.  It's one of those dishes that looks really impressive and complicated, but is actually really easy to make.

You can serve this with a side of pasta or risotto, and a 1.5 pound flank steak will give you about 6-8 slices, enough for 4 people.

1.5 pound beef flank steak
3 c. spaghetti sauce
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 c. white wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 T. fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 T. dried parsley
1/2 c. grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 c. panko breadcrumbs

(Yes, I know a proper Italian recipe would never call for Japanese breadcrumbs... but I'm not Italian, and I only have Japanese breadcrumbs in the pantry...)
Hardware needed:
long piece of kitchen twine/cotton string

1.  Lay your flank steak on a large cutting board.  Make sure the grain is running up and down.  Take a large chefs knife, hold it horizontally, and slice your flank steak almost in half laterally.  Stop just before slicing all the way through.  (You want to butterfly the steak, and end up with one wide piece, not 2 pieces.)

2.  Unfold your flank steak so you now have a nice wide piece, with the grain of the meat up and down. 

3.  Combine the eggs, herbs, cheese, and seasonings in a large bowl.

4.  Add the panko breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly.

5.  Add the mozzarella and mix.

6.  Now, season your butterflied flank steak with salt and pepper.  You can trim off any pointy edges and use them to patch other areas to make a rough rectangle.  Make sure that the grain is running the same direction in your main piece of meat and your patches.  Notice in the photo below, I trimmed off two pointy pieces off the top, and used them to patch the bottom left.  (You can click on the photo to see it enlarged if you can't see the details).

 7.  Spread your filling all over the flank steak, leaving a 2 inch border on the right side only.

8.  Starting from the left side (the side that has the filling all the way up to the edge), tightly roll the meat over the filling.

Place the roll seam side down and get your kitchen twine ready.

9.  Slide the string under the roll, and tie a knot as pictured. 

10.  Take the long end of the string (the end still attached to the ball of twine) and form a loop as shown.

11.  Expand the loop, and put the bottom edge of the loop under the meat, then pull upwards on the string.

12.  Repeat this process until you have several tight loops down the course of the meat.

13.  Roll the meat onto it's other side.  Bring the string upwards.  At this point, you can cut the string from the roll of twine, making sure it is long enough to reach around the other side.  Take the cut end of the string, and twist it over one of the center loops for stability.

14.  Now bring the string all the way up over the top, and roll the meat back onto its original side.  Tie the string to the original starting knot so that you have a nice neat contained package.

15.  (Optional step: searing the meat.  If you want a nice brown crust to the meat, pan sear all sides in a tablespoon of canola oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet.  You can use the cast iron skillet as your baking dish in the next step.)

16.  Place the meat roll, seam side down into a baking dish.  Scatter the onion on the bottom, and pour your spaghetti sauce over the roll, and into the dish.  Stir the white wine into the sauce.  Cover with a double layer of foil, crimping down the edges.

17.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1-3 hours.  (If you seared it, this will probably be done at about 1-1.5 hours.  If you did not sear it, cook a little bit longer - up to 3 hours.)

18.  Remove from the oven, and remove the roll to a cutting board.  Cover with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Remove the string right before slicing.

19.  Serve with the spaghetti sauce.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apple Pocket Pies

I love McDonald's Apple Pies.  Does anyone remember back in the '80s when they used to be fried?  I don't remember exactly when they made the switch from "fried" to "baked"... but I think it was an effort to appear "healthy", although there is nothing healthy about a McDonald's baked apple pie.  Just call it what it is... a delicious, fatty, yummy dessert.

Although it's hard to rival a McDonald's apple pie, I decided to try.  Making mini versions of "big" food is always fun.  So I made some pocket pies with apple filling to satisfy my McDonald's apple pie craving.  These little pies are about 5-6 inch long semi-circles, and you can either bake them or fry them.  I baked mine, but if you decide to fry, then make sure you don't cut slits in the top, and instead poke a few holes with a fork. 

Apple Pocket Pies:
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 T. unsalted butter
3/4 c. milk
egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 2 T. water

8 c. chopped apples
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 tsp. cornstarch
4 T. unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt

1.  First make the filling.  Peel and core 7-8 apples.
 2.  Dice the apples into small cubes.
3.  Add the cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, sugar, and butter, mix until combined.

4.  Microwave for 5 minutes, then remove and stir.  Microwave another 5 minutes and stir.  Microwave again for another 5 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool in the refrigerator until dough is ready.

5.  In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and butter.  Pulse until combined, and the texture of coarse crumbs.

6.  Add the milk, and pulse until combined into a smooth dough.
7.  Turn the dough out onto a floured counter.
 8.  Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Using a floured drinking glass, cut out approximately 18-20 rounds.

9.  Roll each round into thin 5-6 inch circles.
  10.  Spoon a few tablespoons of cooled apple filling into the center of each round.
11.  Brush the egg wash along the edges of the dough.  Fold the dough over into half moon semicircles, and press the edges down.  You can now crimp the edges with your fingers, or with the tines of a fork to seal.

12.  Transfer the pies to an ungreased cookie sheet.  Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash, and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Cut slits into the top of each pie for vents.
13.  Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Remove and cool on a wire rack before serving.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Italian Rainbow cupcakes

 Have you ever had an Italian Rainbow Cookie?  I had them for the first time last year... and they are so good!  Three layers of spongy-almond dough (in colors to mimic the Italian flag) with chocolate surrounding all sides... yum!

I've been on a cupcake kick lately... so I thought, why not try to make a cake version of this cookie?  I started with a basic butter cake recipe, but added almond paste to give it that distinctive almond flavor.
Tinting the cake batter with food coloring gave the three distinctive layers, and I finished it off with a little dark chocolate ganache and chocolate sprinkles. 

Italian Rainbow Cupcakes:
2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. milk
7 oz tube almond paste, grated
2 tsp. almond extract
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Ganache:
10 oz. good quality dark chocolate
1 c. heavy cream

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners (this recipe will make approximately 18 cupcakes).

2.  Unwrap the almond paste, and coarsely grate using a box grater.  Set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.   Set aside.

4.  Cream the butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy.

5.  Add the eggs, 1 egg at a time until thoroughly combined. 

6.  Add the milk, almond paste, and almond extract and mix until uniformly combined.

7.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

8.  Divide the batter into three bowls (about 1 3/4 c. per bowl).  Put three drops of red food coloring into the first bowl, three drops of yellow into the next, and three drops of green into the last.  Mix until uniformly tinted.

9.  Layer the batter into each cupcake liner: 1 T. of pink on the bottom, 1 T. yellow in the middle, then 1 T. green on top.

10.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until done.

11.  Remove from the oven and cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.  Cool completely before frosting.

12.  Meanwhile, make the chocolate ganache.  For step by step photos, see this post on chocolate cream filled cupcakes.  (The instructions for making ganache are at the beginning.)

Basically, heat the cream in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave for 3-4 minutes.  Pour the hot cream over broken up pieces of chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Then begin whisking together until smooth and creamy.  Place a piece of plastic wrap on top, and allow to sit out at room temperature for several hours until set.  (I already had some leftover ganache from the day before)

13.  When the cupcakes are cool, and the ganache is set, frost each cupcake with a thick layer of ganache.

14.  You can stop here if you want... or you can dip the top of the cupcake into a plate of chocolate sprinkles.

You can store these at room temperature (covered with plastic wrap) for about 2 days.  If you need to keep them any longer, store in the refrigerator.