Monday, July 18, 2011

Vanilla Marshmallows with Lyle's Golden Syrup (Corn Free)

I really love Lyle's.  Funny, I don't remember having it when I visited England about 20 years ago.  But it's become my go to corn syrup replacement and I love that golden syrup is more widely available now right here in the US than it was even a couple years ago.  I can find it in just about all our local grocery stores now.  Usually in with the pancake and corn syrups.  It is cane sugar derived and has a unique caramely flavor like a light hint of brown sugar.

Now I've mentioned the book, Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats before many times.
It's my single most favorite cookbook over the past two years.  It solved my corn syrup dilemma for marshmallows for my kiddo.  And I used the homemade invert syrup in the book for other confections in the place of corn syrup as well.  It gives a wonderful clean flavor that really is just whatever flavor you want the confection to be because it has no flavor of its own.  But sometimes I get lazy don't really need the special quality of the syrup or don't have time for the extra step of making it.  Like needing marshmallows for a special camping trip with the grandparents.  It was one of many specialty items I needed to send with them to have safe food options for R.  So with a week of baking and special trips to the store for the best hotdogs ever* (one of only two brands that are corn free), among other sundry items, it was nice to be able to take just a half hour to throw together some marshmallows instead of one and a half for the two steps otherwise required.  Really, less than half an hour.  Maybe five minutes to measure out ingredients and prepare the pan, ten or less to boil and reach temperature.  Ten to twelve minutes to beat the batter to good marshmallow stiffness and another couple to spread it in the pan.  Yes, they must cure for a few hours or overnight before cutting, but getting them to the pan takes less than 30 minutes.  This batch was made for camping s'mores.  R enjoyed helping coat them the next morning and put in the bag for the trip.  These marshmallows have a slightly richer flavor from the caramel notes of the Lyle's.   I'll bet they would work fabulously for the dulce de leche variation!  (Pour out half batter, drizzle softened dulce on top, swirl with knife, pour other half batter, drizzle, swirl.)

Marshmallows freeze wonderfully by the way.  Just be generous with the coating so they don't get sticky while thawing.  They will last for months in the freezer and thaw just as good as new.  Or just take a few out at a time for hot cocoa!

Remember to calibrate your thermometer!

Recipe may be halved.

Vanilla Marshmallows with Lyle's Golden Syrup
makes a 9x13" pan of candy

For the bloom:
½ cup + 2 tbsp water
1½ tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp unflavored gelatin

For the base:
¾ cup water
1¼ cups Lyle's Golden Syrup (Update: it is possible to make these with 1 cup syrup and they still turn out fine and plenty sweet if reduced sugar is desired.)
pinch salt
1½ cups granulated cane sugar
Coating mixture**

Spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray and wipe it lightly with a paper towel, leaving only a thin film of oil.  Set up a stand mixer with whisk attachment in place.

Make the bloom:  Measure the cold water into a measuring cup and add the vanilla.  Place the gelatin into a small bowl and pour the water mixture over it, stirring until there are no lumps.  Set the bowl near the stove.

Make the base:  Place the ¾ cup water, the golden syrup, salt, and sugar, in that order, into a 4-quart pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover the pan with a lid and allow it to boil for 2 minutes to wash down the sugar crystals on the sides.

Remove the lid, place a candy thermometer in the pan, and continue boiling until the syrup is 250ºF 240-245ºF.  Once the lid is removed, do not stir the mixture!  Remove the thermometer and gently stir in the bloomed gelatin.

Update: I have found that having the syrup too hot can result in a somewhat gooey or stringy texture in the finished marshmallows because the high temperature degrades the gelatin.  Best to let the syrup cool to around 212º before adding to the gelatin.

Pour the batter into the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat it on high for 10 to 12 minutes. At first the batter will look very watery, but as it beats, it will become thick, white and glossy and will increase in volume by two- or threefold.

Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and spread the batter into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top with a spatula.  Let the pan sit uncovered at room temperature for at least 4 hours or overnight.
**For the coating:  Sift together ¾ cups powdered sugar (Whole Foods carries powdered sugar made with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch if corn is an issue) and ¼ cup arrowroot or tapioca starch.  Lightly sprinkle a work surface with the mixture.  Ease the marshmallows away from the sides of the pan and flip the pan over, releasing the marshmallows onto the cutting surface.  (Flip again - it is easier to get clean lines while cutting if cutting down through the outer cured side first.)  Cut the marshmallows into squares, or use cookie cutters to cut fancy shapes.  Toss the cut marshmallows in the powdered sugar mixture, shaking off any excess.

Place the coated marshmallows in an airtight container, with waxed paper between the layers, and leave a corner of the lid slightly ajar.  They will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  They will also freeze for months.

* If you are fortunate enough to live in Washington or a couple parts of Oregon and Idaho, you can find Hempler's products.  Their bacon is the absolute best.  And their Uncured franks are totally awesome and corn free.  Only the uncured ones though, the cured have corn syrup in them.  They are huge, fat, ballpark sized dogs and seriously tasty.  Nana remarked that she had never had hotdogs that good before and happily absconded with the extra package I had hidden in the freezer.  (They live in Oregon not near a distributor.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

BBB - bring on the buns

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Nothing compares to homemade hamburger buns.  And, despite the inclement weather, it is summer and by golly we will grill burgers!  Sara at i like to cook chose a Williams Sonoma hamburger bun recipe for this month's BBB challenge.  I just sent the last two homemade buns from the freezer with my daughter for a camping trip with the folks.  Good time to Buddy up and replenish the supplies.  This recipe is more enriched than my old favorite and yields a bun that is closer to the soft pillowy storebought kind, especially if you use all white flour.  I choose to use part white whole wheat in mine.  And yeah, I was a wet blanket and made them the standard round shape instead of the cool squares.  It's a matter of don't change too many things at once or the kids will rebel.  We don't have White Castle around here, so they have no exposure to the cute little sliders.  But most kids love mini stuff, right?  Maybe next time.  ☺  I added my changes/opinions in italics.  Go out and make yourself some buns however you like them!

Homemade Hamburger Buns

1½ cups (375 ml) milk (bring to scald for better flavor and rise)
8 Tbsp (1 stick/125 g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces (I use salted butter, but also add less salt)
4½ tsp active dry yeast (I use ~3 tsp Instant Yeast)
4 cups (625 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I use slightly less since I use part whole wheat)
5 Tbsp sugar (I use less)
1 Tbsp kosher salt (I use about half that - sea salt)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water (for egg wash - optional)
 sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter and heat until the butter is melted, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool to 105-155ºF (40 to 46ºC).  Add the yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 4 cups of flour, the sugar and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  Add the milk mixture and knead until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute.  Increase the speed to medium low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the dough from the bowl, oil the inside of the bowl and return the dough to the bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 10 x 7½" (25 x 19 cm) rectangle.  Using a ruler as a guide, cut the dough into 2½" (6 cm) squares.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing the buns evenly apart, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC)

Remove the plastic wrap from the baking sheet.  Brush the tops of the buns with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds if using.  Bake until the buns are golden and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a bun registers 190ºF (88ºC), 14 to 16 minutes.  Transfer the buns to a wire rack and let cool completely.  Cut in half and use as hamburger buns.  
Makes 12 hamburger buns.

For slider buns: Follow the instructions above but roll out the dough into a 9" (23 cm) square.  Cut into 1½ inch (4cm) squares and place on 2 parchment lined baking sheets.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.  Position one rack in the upper third of an oven and one rack in the lower third and preheat to 400ºF (200ºC).  Brush the tops with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds if using.  Bake for about 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and 180 degrees halfway through baking.  

Makes 36 slider buns.

My backseat baker notes:  Do let them cool completely before trying to slice.  They will be much easier to slice and hold up better under the filling with ample cooling time.  
One thing I love about homemade buns is that they freeze AND thaw great.  Just don't slice them before freezing.  I know my standby recipe freezes well.  With these more highly enriched buns, I would freeze on a sheet before storing in a food bag so as to ensure they keep their shape.  Standard store bought buns, well they turn into shriveled little freezer burned hockey pucks.  Go homemade!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Too good not to share Tiramisu Ice Cream

Despite the fact that it has been an abysmally wet and cool summer so far, (raining and 57º F today),  we have still been doing lots of ice cream.  I clicked over to this delectable recipe via foodgawker and just had to make it.  Especially since I had an extra tub of mascarpone and leftover lady fingers from the tiramisu I made for my birthday last month.  I could tell even before it was done churning and I had finished adding in the coffee/chocolate and lady fingers that it was a super winner.  I could practically have eaten half a batch straight out of the bucket.  The fact that it is a no cook, no egg base makes it even easier.  This is great with the ladyfingers crunchy as well as softened (after curing).  If you have enough, you may wish to keep some crumbled for garnish.  Remember to get the Italian Lady Fingers - they are a hard little biscuit about the thickness of your thumb and not the soft ones found in the refrigerator case.  The Italian ones keep for a very long time so you may want to stock up if you can find a grocery store that carries them.  I am fortunate enough to have two fairly nearby.  If you love tiramisu, you owe it to yourself to try this out!  ☺

Tiramisu Ice Cream
adapted from Diethood
makes 1.5 quarts

1 tub (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp amaretto
1 tbsp chocolate liqueur (such as Godiva)
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup espresso
1 square (1 oz.) semi-sweet baker's chocolate (I used half unsweetened baker's chocolate for an authentic flavor and contrast to the sweetness)
4 ladyfingers, chopped + more for serving (optional)

With a mixer, blend sugar and mascarpone until smooth, then blend in the milk, amaretto, chocolate liqueur and salt.   You can also just dump all those ingredients in a blender or food processor and let her go until smooth and blended.  Chill for an hour.  Pour into canister of ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

While the mixture is chilling, prepare espresso and finely chop the chocolate.  (I admit to using dried espresso powder and hot water.)  Stir chocolate into espresso until melted.  Get this done early enough so that it is cooled down by the time you are ready to incorporate it into the frozen mixture.  When the ice cream has almost finished, and while still churning, start pouring in the chocolate mixture a teaspoon at a time.  It will loosen up the mixture, but just go gradually.  When the ice cream is finished, remove the dasher and quickly fold in the chopped lady fingers if using.  Transfer what you haven't eaten already to a freezer container and freeze for at least 4 hours until firm.

Top with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings and garnish with a lady finger or ladyfinger crumbs when serving.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lemon Chiffon Pie

This is one of my favorite summertime pies.  Lemon actually ranks right up in the top 5 flavors (so I hear) for desserts and is pushing #1 for me.  I adore just about all things lemon.  The nice thing about this pie is that it only requires the oven to be on long enough to bake the crust.  Now I do love a good lemon meringue pie with that silky tart curd and (if done correctly) billowing mounds of creamy meringue perfectly melded to it.  But let's face it, that one is a lot harder.  I haven't actually attempted one myself.  And I may not anytime soon because this is so much easier and just as good in its own right.  You do make a lemon custard and you do whip up a meringue of sorts; but folded together they make an exceptionally light, modestly tart, and simply ethereal pie filling.

Now I have seen these done with a graham cracker crust and I don't recommend it.  I tried it once to save time and it was not nearly as good as a real pie crust.  Too sweet.  The one exception I might consider is a crumb crust made with oatmeal snack crackers.  They are not nearly as sweet and would have a better contrast to the filling.  I do love these with a standard pie crust though.  Do try to make this with fresh lemon juice, it's just not as good otherwise, plus you need the zest.  Lemons are cheap and usually available.  Even the organic ones are inexpensive and much safer considering how highly sprayed the citrus crops usually are in conventional farming.  So yes, I do recommend organic if you can get it.  Otherwise wash and scrub the lemons very thoroughly before zesting.  Oh, and zest before you juice.  Seems like common sense but even I've forgotten on occasion.  ☺

Lemon Chiffon Pie
makes one 9" pie

For the crust:
1 cup + 1 tbsp all purpose flour (~4.5 oz)
6 tbsp butter (3 oz)
2 tbsp + 2 tsp Non-hydrogenated shortening (~1.4 oz)
½ tsp celtic sea salt (use about half that if using salted butter)
¼ cup ice water

Chill butter and shortening (separately) in the refrigerator.  Cut into small pieces just before using.  In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour and salt by pulsing 3 to 4 times.  Add butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until texture is somewhat mealy.  Some larger chunks are okay.  Add shortening and pulse another 3 or 4 times.  Sprinkle a couple/few tablespoons of the ice water all over the mixture and pulse twice.  Sprinkle on another tablespoon and pulse once or twice.  Add another tablespoon if necessary, stop just when the dough is starting to form clumps.  Dump out the mixture into large ziploc bag, squeeze it together and press into a rounded disk.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to two days.

Preheat oven to 400º F.  Roll out dough into a 10 or 11" circle (it helps to whack it flatter with your pin first).  Slide pie plate under and ease the crust into position.  Fold under the edges and crimp as you like.  Use any longer edges to fill in shorter gaps for an even thickness on the edge.  (There won't be any leftovers.)  Dock the crust all over with a fork and stick in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Place a large piece of parchment paper over the crust and fill with pie weights/pie chain/dried beans.  Gently even out the weights.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Carefully remove parchment and weights and continue baking for another 5-8 minutes until golden brown.  (Now is when you would add a pie shield if you have one.)  Remove and place on cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before filling.

For the filling:
½ cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
4 eggs, separated (or 4 egg yolks and the equivalent of 4 powdered whites, reconstituted)
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice (I actually prefer the tartness of one extra tbsp lemon juice and one less of water)
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ cup sugar

Stir together ½ cup sugar and gelatin in a small saucepan.  Blend egg yolks, water and lemon juice together and then stir into sugar mixture.  (If you pour the juice mixture through a fine mesh sieve first, you won't have to worry about any curdled egg whites in your custard.)  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest.  Chill in the refrigerator or an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon.  (The refrigerator option is the more forgiving time option.)
Beat egg whites (or reconstituted dried egg whites) and cream of tartar until foamy.  Beat in second ½ cup of sugar, a couple tbsp at a time until stiff and glossy.  Do not underbeat or your filling will deflate when you combine it.  Fold lemon mixture into meringue.  Pile into cooled, baked pie shell.  (I sometimes will give the filling a few minutes in the fridge to firm up a little bit so it really piles well, but you have to watch it like a hawk so it doesn't set too much.)  Chill at least three hours until set.  Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

 * My backseat baker notes:  The egg whites are not cooked, so unless you have access to fresh farm pastured eggs, I do not recommend using the fresh whites.  Store eggs are just not safe that way.  I do use the dried whites when I make this for company.
Please don't use crisco in the crust.  Throw it out if you have any.  That stuff is SO bad for you: fully and partially hydrogenated oils, soybean oil - a GMO ingredient; it really is a heart attack in a can.  If you can't find the non-hydrogenated Spectrum or Jungle brand shortenings, you'd do better to try an all butter crust.  It will be more flaky and less tender than shortening but still delicious.  I grew up with crisco crusts, but I can tell you that the spectrum works just as well.  The ratio is slightly different but once you figure it out with your own recipe you will have the same result as with the blue bucket. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gotta share chocolate cupcakes

We have two months of mega birthdays in our family.  Four birthdays in June (three in this household) and five birthdays in September.  I have done cakes in the past but our most recent round of birthdays spawned a request for chocolate cupcakes.  And I found my most favorite ever chocolate cupcake recipe.  The recipe easily halves so you can get just six cupcakes for a small family celebration, or the standard dozen for a small party.  My daughter's seventh birthday was the first round of these beauties and I would say that 90% of the cupcakes were eaten down to the wrapper.  I did have some vanilla too, but 8 out of 9 kids chose the chocolate.  I was very pleased with the results as I tend to see lots of picked at plates of cake at most parties.  These are so great, they bake up with perfect little domes, are wonderfully moist and last very well.  They are also firm enough to stand up to frosting with a knife.  Oh yes, no mixer required.  These come together with just a whisk. 

This last round for my youngest was the fourth time I've made them now.  This is practically a no fail recipe.  I threw it together before dinner and frosted afterward for our birthday song.  Big sister talked little sis into yellow icing and I managed to find a box of natural vegetable based food colors - $19.  OUCH.  They are subtle and take more liquid to color but the result was a pleasing pale yellow.  The same company makes the natural dyed sugar sprinkles too.  India Tree.  Ruddy expensive though.  I am putting my colors in the fridge for longer keeping now.  I absolutely adore Brown Eyed Baker's super easy recipe for vanilla bean buttercream.  It is so fluffy and silky and will not form a crust even when left out for 12 or more hours.  But depending on the frosting, these little cakes can be dairy free if you wish.  The cupcake recipe is a simplified version of a Cook's Illustrated recipe for chocolate ganache cupcakes.  Which I'm sure must be out of this world since the plain ones turn out so stellar.

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
makes one dozen standard cupcakes

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I know they say to use the best chocolate, but I use Enjoy life soy free mini chips with great results and no chopping necessary)
1/3 cup (1 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa (I use natural, there are only a few recipes where it really matters)
¾ cup hot coffee (instant coffee or espresso with hot water works as well)
¾ cup (4 1/8 oz) all purpose flour
¾ cup (5¼ oz) evaporated cane sugar
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 tbsp sunflower oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar as white vinegar is derived from corn)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a standard-sized muffin pan with cupcake papers. Place chocolate (or mini chips) and cocoa in medium bowl.  Pour hot coffee over mixture and let sit for a few minutes to allow chocolate to melt.  (Yes, you can omit the coffee and just use hot water if you desire, but really it just enhances the chocolate and you don't taste coffee unless you have a palate that is very sensitive to a certain flavor component of coffee.) Whisk until smooth.  Set aside to cool.  Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.  Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth.  Add to flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups.  Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, about 17 to 19 minutes.  Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack to cool completely - about an hour.  Frost as desired.

These are so good, I could eat them with just a dusting of powdered sugar.  But they are delicious with the buttercream too.  ☺  Now if only I could find a vanilla recipe I liked as well...