Saturday, March 30, 2013

Carrot Cake Rice Krispies Treats

Every year at Easter I try to find the perfect dessert to embody the beginning of spring, but for some reason
nothing really reminds me of the season more than a traditional carrot cake. As you can see, this is definitely not a traditional carrot cake.

I happened to come across the Carrot Cake Rice Krispie Treat recipe from a blog called Mallow and Co...yes, a blog devoted exclusively to rice krispies treats recipes. You're welcome. However, after recently reading  Deb Perelman's Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats recipe in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, I decided to make a few alterations and came up with this recipe mash-up.

I realize some traditionalists out there may be wondering why you would mess with such a standard like the Rice Krispie Treat--it has been working like a delicious charm since 1939 after all--but let me tell you, it's worth it. Probably the most appealing aspect of this dessert is that it's so quick to make, so feel free to skip browning the butter in this recipe if you're in a hurry, but definitely give it a try if you have the time because it really adds a depth of flavor.

I was skeptical as to whether these treats would actually taste like carrot cake, but they absolutely do. Also be aware that the frosting recipe will leave a bit leftover, so just be prepared to find yourself smearing cream cheese frosting on anything in sight. Or maybe that's just me.

Carrot Cake Rice Krispies Treats
     adapted from Mallow and Co and Smitten Kitchen
     makes 1 8x8 or 9x9 pan

8 Tablespoons butter
1 10-oz bag marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dry carrot cake mix
6 cups Rice Krispies

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese
8 Tablespoons butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

2. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.

3. As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth. Stir in the vanilla and cake mix.

4.  Pour in the cereal and fold together with a large spoon or silicone spatula. Pour into prepared pan and press firmly and evenly into the edges. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before turning onto waxed paper to frost and slice.

5. For the frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Slowly add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add in the vanilla and beat until smooth and combined.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chocolate Stout Tiramisu

This year for St. Patrick's Day I wanted to try a recipe that kept the spirit of the holiday but was a departure from the standard Irish cream and whiskey-themed desserts we're all used to. Because let's be honest, how many of us actually drink Bailey's and Jameson on a regular basis anyway? Ok, don't answer that.

I thought this recipe's use of chocolate stout was a good way to pay homage to the Guinness we usually find this time of year, but with a modern twist. Let's just say the "good" things about this recipe ended there.

Considering this recipe broke two of my cardinal rules (1) no uncommon, difficult to find ingredients 2) the need to set in the refrigerator overnight) I'm not really sure why I decided to go ahead with it anyway. After a failure to locate Steen's Dark Cane Syrup anywhere in the DC metro area, I decided to substitute dark corn syrup for the cake portion of this dish and the baking failures just piled up from there. I could only find chocolate stout in litre-sized bottles...the cake was tasteless and too soft to dip in the reduction...the carbonation of the stout caused the reduction to boil over...the marscapone wouldn't get fluffy. After two hours of consternation and frustration assembling this turned out to be delicious.

While I absolutely recommend you use actual cane syrup if you decide to torture yourself with this recipe, if you have to make a few substitutions along the way--have faith, it will turn out better than you think. I suppose this is the result I get for trying to tamper with tradition, maybe next year I'll just stick to the soda bread.

Chocolate Stout Tiramisu
     from Food and Wine

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups dark cane syrup (such as Steen's)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
3/4 cup hot water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate stout or other stout
1/2 cup triple sec or orange liqueur
1/4 cup honey

4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups marscapone (about 1 pound)
Unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the syrup, oil and egg. In a glass cup, stir the hot water with the baking soda. In 3 alternating additions, whisk the syrup mixture and soda water into the dry ingredients.    
2. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool. Unmold the cake from the pan.  

3. In a saucepan, combine the stout, triple sec and honey. Boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, 8 minutes. Pour into a shallow dish; let cool.  

4. In a bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone.

5. Cut off and save one-third of the cake for eating. Slice the rest of the cake 1/3 inch thick. Cut the slices into 3-inch pieces, saving the scraps. Dip the slices into the reduction and place in the bottom of eight 1-cup ramekins. Dip the scraps into the reduction and use to fill in the gaps. Spread 1/4 cup of the filling over the cake in each ramekin. Repeat the layering of dipped cake and filling. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

6. Before serving, let the tiramisu stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Sift cocoa powder over each ramekin and serve

Monday, March 11, 2013

Buttered Rum Shoofly Engagement Pie

The mention of Shoofly Pie, like apple butter, is usually something that results in raised eyebrows from those who haven't spent much time in the Midwest or, more specifically, around Amish country.

Essentially a molasses custard pie with a brown sugar crumb topping, this comforting late winter pie results from a combination of simple pantry ingredients coming together into what a friend  from Pennsylvania eloquently called "a sign of the end of winter, but before people were completely at ease. Nobody knew for a fact whether the weather was going to warm tomorrow or three weeks from now." The perfect harbinger of spring, but still decadent enough to warm you on a winter's night, this pie is tried and true...with a just a little modern twist in the form of a dash of rum. Don't tell the Amish. :)

This particular recipe came from  Ashley English's A Year Of Pies, which I received as a Christmas gift. A unique collection of seasonal pies, this book contains many twists on old classics and I can't wait to try recipes like Peaches and Cream Crumble Top Pie, and Chai Spice Apple Pie. While my new favorite pie crust recipe comes from The Homemade Pantry, I decided to try out English's recommended crust instead--I'd review it for you here but I forgot to add half the butter so...we won't talk about that. If I made this pie again I might actually decrease the rum just a little bit, as well as the salt. While they were perfectly complimentary flavors and a welcome update to an old classic, they were just a little bit over powering for my taste.

So, why is this an engagement pie? Well, no reason really except that it turned out to be the first thing I baked since becoming engaged!!! I just wanted to share that news with you, dear readers, and to thank everyone that has extended their well wishes to us, as you will likely be seeing a lot more from my future husband and taste-tester-to-be on The Cupcake Avenger. 

Buttered Rum Shoofly Pie

Basic All-Butter Crust (makes 2)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cubed
3/4 cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or two forks, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. slowly drizzle in the ice water, stir with a large spoon until the mixture begins to clump.

Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until all the flour is incorporated into the fats. The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky. Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls and pat each ball into a 1/2 inch thick disk. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp sea salt
8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup dark rum
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
3 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the crust and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9" pie pan. Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch and crimp decoratively. Place in the refrigerator.

2. Mix together the flour, sugars, spices and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter until pea-sized crumbs form.

3. Bring the water and rum to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Remove from the heat and pour into a medium bowl. Whisk in the baking soda and molasses.

4. Add the eggs beating well to combine, then stir in a little more than half of the prepared crumb mixture.

5. Pour the molasses mixture into the chilled pie crust and sprinkle with the remaining crumb topping. Set the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 45 minutes, or until the filling is set.