Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Indian (British) Dinner

On occasion I do actually post things that aren’t baked (or desserts). This week for dinner I decided to take a crack at making myself some Indian food. But, I made Chicken Tikka Masala, which an Indian friend told me really is British food. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed making it, and eating it. Alongside I made some curried cauliflower, and I had palak paneer and naan from Trader Joes. All in all a full quasi-Indian feast.

For the chicken I used a marinade from Mike’s Table. I thought it was excellent, even by itself it made for a very moist, flavorful chicken thigh. After that I made a sauce based on that from All Recipes, I made a fair number of changes to it though. Finally, I made this curried cauliflower from epicurious, which I thought was only so-so. The flavors weren’t as strong as I was expecting, and some of it burnt, if I were to do it again I might cook it at a slightly lower temperature.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Makes 4 servings

For Marinade:

1 ½ - 2 lbs chicken thighs, skinned, deboned, with excess fat removed
2 T ginger paste
2 T garlic paste
½ tsp salt
¼ cup plain yogurt
½ T chili powder (more if you want it spicier)
1 ½ T vegetable oil

For Sauce:

1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chili, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
3-4 green cardamom pods
1 t whole coriander seeds
1 T butter
2 ½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup plain yogurt
Salt to taste

1. Place the chicken, ginger, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Rub the chicken with the mix, trying to get even coverage.

2. In a separate bowl whisk together the yogurt, chili powder, and 1 T of the oil.

3. Toss the chicken with the yogurt mixture. Mix in the rest of the oil.

4. Seal the chicken and marinade in an airtight container, refrigerate for at least an hour, or over night.

5. Spread the chicken with the marinade in a roasting pan, and place under a broiler at 450. Broil for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through but moist.

6. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, jalapeno, cardamom pods, and coriander seeds. Saute for a minute.

7. Add the cumin, paprika, some salt, the tomatoes, and the yogurt.

8. Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the sauce, if you don’t have one you can pour the sauce into a regular blender, just be careful, because it’s hot. You might remove the cardamom pods before this, but I didn’t, and they stayed pretty much intact.

9. Cook the sauce until heated through. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces. Add the chopped chicken to the sauce and cook for five minutes.

10. Serve immediately over basmati rice

Curried Cauliflower

12 cups cauliflower florets (from about 4 pounds cauliflower)
1 large onion, peeled, quartered
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon Hungarian hot paprika
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place cauliflower florets in large roasting pan. Pull apart onion quarters into separate layers; add to cauliflower.

2. Stir coriander seeds and cumin seeds in small skillet over medium heat until slightly darkened, about 5 minutes. Crush coarsely in mortar with pestle. Place seeds in medium bowl. Whisk in oil, vinegar, curry powder, paprika, and salt.

3. Pour dressing over vegetables; toss to coat. Spread vegetables in single layer. Sprinkle with pepper.

4. Roast vegetables until tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Eggnog Cupcakes

So, the Nog season may have passed, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying these eggnog cupcakes if you can find some. I actually made these back before the holidays, but it has taken me awhile to get around to posting them. The cake is a half recipe of the “downy yellow butter cake” from The Cake Bible. I then piped it full of eggnog pastry cream, which I found a recipe for here. To finish, I topped it with a bourbon buttercream (which is a keeper in and of itself, at least if you like bourbon). I made these as minis, which I thought was better for this particular set of flavors (I think eggnog is best in small doses), but there’s no reason you couldn’t make them full sized if you really wanted to, just fill them using the cone method instead of piping in the filling.

I didn’t think the pastry cream recipe I found was eggnog-y enough, and so after it was done I whisked in another half cup or so of eggnog. As an alternative, you could probably just replace some of the milk in the pastry cream with more eggnog (pre-cooking), but I haven’t tried this, so I’m going to write what I did, with this as a suggestion to anyone else who cares to try. Also, make the pastry cream first, as it needs several hours to cool.

Eggnog Cupcakes

Downy Yellow Butter Cake (from the cake bible)

3 egg yolks
½ cup milk
1 ¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sifted cake flour
¾ cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
6 T unsalted butter, softened

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, 2 T of the milk, and the vanilla.

2. Combine the dry ingredients (including the sugar) in the bowl of a mixer, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.

3. Add the butter and remaining milk, continue mixing on low until ingredients are moistened. Then turn the mixer up to medium and beat for another 90 seconds.

4. Slowly add the egg mixture in thirds, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

5. Fill mini-cupcake liners 2/3 full, and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cakes are golden, and a tester comes out clean. Let cool

Eggnog Pastry Cream

1 ½ cups full fat eggnog
1 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring the milk and 1 cup of the eggnog to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients until smooth.

3. Slowly pour ½ of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper them. Whisk this mixture back into the saucepan, and return to the stove over medium heat.

4. Stir the mixture constantly until it thickens. With a pastry cream this is sort of a strange process, at first it will begin to look like parts are overcooked, and then that it is curdled. Just keep stirring until it becomes smooth.

5. Remove from heat. When it has cooled sufficiently, taste. If you want it to have a stronger eggnog flavor, whisk in the remaining ½ cup eggnog.

6. Press plastic wrap directly onto the pastry cream, and refrigerate until set. At least 3 hours.

Bourbon Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup bourbon
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Cream the butter with 1 cup of the powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the bourbon and the vanilla.

2. Add more powdered sugar until the frosting gets to a flavor and consistency that you like. I tend to aim for less powdered sugar in my buttercreams, but you should do what you like.


Fit a pastry bag with a small to medium round tip. Fill the bag with pastry cream.

Stick the tip into the top of a cupcake, and squeeze the bag. Fill just until the cupcake puffs up

Decoratively pipe on buttercream, using it to disguise the hole.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Chances are good you’ve never heard of an Esterhazy torte, at least if google is any indication. It’s a traditional Hungarian walnut cake, made with thin, meringue like cake layers and a rich walnut filling, which I first had at a little local place, and was absolutely blown away by. Of course, I immediately went home to find a recipe so that I could make it myself, but much to my surprise, there was a relative dearth of information and recipes (one that didn’t look great from did come up). Fortunately, digging through some message boards on cooking websites unearthed a couple of recipes, which I combined into something workable. I’ve actually tried this cake a couple of times, first before thanksgiving, and then I made two of them for New Year’s parties.

I made one major change from the traditional cake. As I’ve seen it at a restaurant, and the few places I’ve found it, an Esterhazy is traditionally topped with a fondant or mirror, which then has a chocolate web made into it. The first time I tried this, my fondant (really, the recipe was just for a glaze) was apparently too loose, and within minutes it flowed off of the cake, literally leaving it sitting in a pool of frosting. I made several more attempts to no avail. I also thought this caused the cake to be overly sweet (a picture of this cake, as I finally served it, is at the bottom of this post). Consequently, the second time I made the cake, I replaced the traditional fondant with a nice chocolate buttercream, which I used to frost the whole outside of the cake. I have to say, this may not be traditional, but combined with the walnuts it was very good. The filling in this cake is also pretty unusual, sort of a cross between a butter cream and a pastry cream, but when it’s done it is to die for. This cake could also be made with almonds, or maybe even hazelnuts. One last note, as a consequence, this cake is incredibly rich, so serve small slices.

Esterhazy Torte

Cake Layersmakes 6 thin layers (the recipe I took from claimed it only made 5, but there was enough left for a sixth)

10 egg whites, room temperature
7/8 cup sugar (this is one cup minus two tablespoons, use vanilla sugar* if you have it)
2 cups + 2 T ground walnuts (about 8 ½ oz)
Zest of 1 medium orange, finely grated
½ cup all purpose flour, sifted

*vanilla sugar can be purchased at specialty stores, or made by combining a vanilla pod with sugar. If you have vanilla powder, you can also put in a little of that. I would not recommend adding vanilla extract to this part of the recipe, as the liquid may cause your whites to lose some of their stiffness.

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Draw 6, eight inch circles on parchment paper, and lay them out on cookie sheets.

2. Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a mixer, and beat until the whites reach stiff, dry peaks.

3. Fold in the nuts and orange zest. Sift the flour over the mixture and gently fold to combine.

4. Place some batter at the center of one of your parchment circles (somewhere around ¾ of a cup). Using an offset spatula, spread the batter as thinly as possible, covering the entire circle. I would say my layers ended up being about ¼ inch thick.

5. Once all your layers are made, place in the oven for 45 minutes, until crisp and golden. Be careful not to place your layers too low in the oven (if that’s where your heating element is), or they may get scorched on the bottom (learned this the hard way).

6. Remove from the oven, and transfer to cooling racks after about a minute. Promptly peel off the parchment paper. Let sit until completely cool and firm. If you leave them overnight, and they need to be re-crisped, put them in a 185 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Here is a picture of what the completed cake looks like sliced. The individual layers become a little indistinct, but it still tastes great.

Walnut Filling

6 egg yolks
1 ½ cups milk (any kind)
1 ½ cups ground walnuts
6 T cornstarch
1 ½ T sugar
2 t vanilla extract
3 T dark rum
18 T butter (2 ¼ sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
½ tsp almond extract (optional)

1. In a double boiler, over barely simmering water, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, walnuts, cornstarch, vanilla and sugar. Switch to a spatula and continue stirring, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.

2. As you go, the mixture will thicken (you are making a pastry cream). At first, it will appear to separate, as parts are thick and others aren’t, just keep stirring until it becomes uniformly thick. Bring it all the way up to a boil (it will be very thick by this point). Remove from heat.

3. Just so you know, at this point the pastry cream should taste pretty unappetizing, sort of like oatmeal. That is normal (consider how little sugar went in). Whisk in the rum. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream, and let set in the refrigerator, at least 4 hours.

4. In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter until fluffy. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, and beat until fully combined. Add ¼ of the pastry cream, along with the almond extract, and beat to combine. Keep adding it in portions until all pastry cream has been beaten in. If the mixture is too soft, add additional powdered sugar. Do remember it is a filling though, and doesn't need to be pipeable. The end result of this looks a little strange, but should taste great.

Chocolate buttercream

½ pound butter (2 sticks)
½ pound semisweet chocolate (finely chopped, or in chip)
½ tsp vanilla
2-3 cups powdered sugar

1. Melt the chocolate over barely simmering water in the bowl of a double boiler. Set aside to cool.

2. Cream the butter with 1 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Once the chocolate is cool enough that it won’t melt the butter, add in the chocolate. Beat until well combined.

4. Beat in additional powdered sugar until frosting is pipeable, and tasty. I tend not to like overly sweetened buttercreams, and so try to stay on the softer side, with less powdered sugar, but you should do what feels right to do, buttercream is incredibly flexible


Cake layers

Walnut filling
2 T apricot Jam
1 T dark rum (or cold water)
Chocolate buttercream

1. Place a cake layer flat-side down on your work surface. Spread 1/5 of your walnut filling on it, reaching to all the corners. Try to spread it relatively thinly, as with 6 layers, this is not a cake where you want thick layers of frosting. Place the next layer on top, and gently press it into the frosting, then frost the top of it, and press another layer on. It will look sort of like a stack of pancakes. If any of your layers are misshapen, and stick out beyond the edge of the cake, gently trim them with scissors. If any of your layers crack or break while you’re working, don’t worry about it (it happened to me twice). Just stick them back together, and cover them with filling, this stuff is a little like schlak, and will hold them together without a problem.

2. Continue until you have placed your last layer on top of the cake (this time flat side up). You should not frost the top of the cake with the walnut filling).

3. Use excess frosting to patch up the sides of your cake, first any holes you have, and then just all around the make the edges of the cake even and flat if you can.

Here's one of the cakes with the filling spread around the edges, so it's more even, and the second in the process of getting its crumb coat

4. Simmer the apricot jam with the rum in a small saucepan, just until the jam is melted. Avoiding any big chunks of apricot, use a pastry brush to spread the glaze thinly over the top layer of the cake.

5. Spread a small amount of the chocolate buttercream evenly over the cake, this is your crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.

6. Spread the remainder of the chocolate buttercream evenly over the cake. Reserve some for whatever decorations and embellishments you choose.

These are the two completed cakes I made for New Year's Eve

Here is my first attempt at the Esterhazy, with the fondant. Pressed into the sides is some ground up praline. Combined with the fondant, this was too sweet, and the fondant didn't add anything. The chocolate is better.