Almond Mousse Cupcakes

In a bit of a funk, lately.

We're on the edge of a big transition, but the future is unknown.

Having a hard time putting energy into things, including blogging.  And etc.

I have so much good stuff up my sleeve though, and when I start it I always think "I can't WAIT to blog this!"

Then I look at my camera a week later and I took three pictures of the process, only two of which are any good, and no pics of the finished product.

Because I already ate it.

All of it.

Oh well.  These are the last 3 of 24 almond mousse cupcakes I made for a baby shower.  The theme was nautical.

The starfish were marzipan.

Almond Mousse Cupcakes
Makes 24

For the marzipan starfish (from Emeril):
8 ounces almond paste
1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
4 tablespoons corn syrup

For the cakes:
2 sticks butter, softened
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon almond extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

For the almond mousse (also from Emeril, the man knows his almonds):
5 oz almonds, lightly toasted and cooled
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons warm water
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting:
2 sticks butter, softened
3 - 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons almond extract

Make the marzipan starfish in advance.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat up the almond paste with 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar.  Mix until it is incorporated.  Add the remaining sugar and beat until incorporated also.  Add the corn syrup and combine well.  Mixture will still be crumbly, but should hold together if pressed.  Turn the mixture out onto a clean surface and knead until it comes together.  If it becomes too sticky, add more confectioner's sugar.  You should have a smooth dough, which you can then shape as you like.  Top with raw sugar for texture.

Make the almond mousse in advance as well.  Blend the almonds and 2 tablespoons of the confectioner's sugar into a paste in a food processor.  Beat the cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar together until soft peaks form.  Meanwhile, in the top of a double boiler combine corn syrup and water and whisk until smooth.  Add egg yolks and amaretto; place over the top of a simmering pan and beat with an electric mixer until very thick and ribbons form.  Continue to beat until cool.  Add in the vanilla and whipped cream and fold together.  Finally, fold in the reserved almond paste.  Chill at least 4 hours.

Day of, make your cupcakes.  Preheat oven to 350, line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake liners.  Beat your butter and sugar together about 3 minutes.  Add your eggs, beating well between each addition, about 1 minute.  Combine buttermilk and almond extract in separate bowl (I just use a measuring cup).  Combine flour, powder and salt in a separate container.  Add to mixer in batches, switching back and forth between dry ingredients and wet (I usually do 3 batches dry, 2 batches wet).  Once all are added turn off mixer and finish mixing by hand.

Bake 20 - 25 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick.

Finally, make frosting.  Beat confectioner's sugar and butter together for 3 minutes.  Add almond extract and food coloring  (I used 2 dabs blue gel and one dab green).  Add in milk.  Beat one minute more.

Assembly:  Fill cupcakes with mousse, piping it into the center.  Frost.  Place a starfish on top.  Ta da!

Wedding Cake

Spring weddings are always risky.

Rain?  No rain?  Is it good luck or just ironic?

The flowers, though.

The nice thing about making wedding cakes is that you get to go to the PARTY.  Yes, those are cream puff kebabs.

I only accept payment in cream puff kebabs.

Fish Sticks

I know what you're thinking.

Fish sticks? you're thinking.  Fish sticks?

Where's the pizzazz?

Well I'll tell you what, busters.  The pizzazz is feeding my family something easy and healthy that they will actually eat.

That's the trifecta.

And honestly, humble as they are, these were completely delicious.  Crispy panko, smooth cod, tart tartar (is that why they call it that??) sauce.  A few naked cukes on the side.

The pizzazz is there.  This dish is just too much of a lady to call attention to it.  (Fish sticks be a lady tonight)

Fish Sticks
adapted from a fish

2 lbs cod
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1/2 cup flour (or more as needed)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350.

Stir your bread crumbs, salt, paprika and lemon pepper together.  Beat your eggs in a shallow dish.  Chop your cod into sticks.

Dip sticks into flour, then egg, then roll in bread crumbs to coat.  Place on baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, flipping once during cooking.  Serve with lemon and tartar sauce!

Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
6 tablespoons chopped capers
10 tablespoons chopped dill pickles
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Stir all ingredients together, chill until using.

Lavender Rolls

I have been dreaming of these since December, and the time was finally ripe.

You could grind up the lavender if you wanted, it might look prettier.

I didn't mind the little flowers scattered in the dough, though.  I could use more little flowers scattered in things, actually.

Just in general.

The taste was perfect, not too strong and not too subtle.

Just use it the same way you would use cinnamon.

I thought about dying the frosting purple.  Maybe I should have.

I used mascarpone cheese in the frosting instead of cream cheese.  I don't like the tang of cream cheese frosting.  Mascarpone brought that cheesy smoothness without the tang.

If I ever have any kind of food shop, these will be the specialty.

Lavender Rolls
Recipe adapted from Averie Cooks
Makes 12

4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (one packet)
pinch salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4-6 teaspoons lavender flowers

Mascarpone Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Combine 4 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar, yeast, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Warm buttermilk to 100F on stove.  Add melted butter, eggs, and buttermilk to dry ingredients and beat on medium-low for about 1 minute, until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and run for 10-12 minutes (15 - 18 minutes by hand).  If more flour is needed, add remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.  It's okay for this dough to be sticky.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Prepare your pan, this can be a jellyroll pan or ordinary 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Line with foil or a silpat and set aside (if using foil, grease with butter).

After dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured surface and roll into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle.

Spread butter for filling over the dough, in chunks or fully spread out, depending on softness of the butter.  Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of sugar, then with lavender flowers.

Roll your rectangle up into a big dough log.  Slice into 12 slices.  The best way to do this is with dental floss, but don't use the mint flavored kind unless you want minty lavender (hmm).  If you don't have unflavored floss around, use a sharp knife to avoid squishing the dough as much as possible.

Place slices on prepared pan and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the rolls have doubled in size about 1 1/2 hours (rolls can also be refrigerated before this second rise for up to 16 hours, bringing to room temperature and continuing with rise the next day).

Bake at 350F for 22 - 25 minutes or until lightly golden on top.  Cool slightly (or don't), spread with mascarpone frosting, and eat.

For frosting:
Blend cheese and butter on medium speed, about 1 minute.  Add the vanilla and 3 cups confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add remaining cup of sugar to taste, based on desired frosting consistency.

Blood Orange Marmalade

What are your thoughts on marmalade?

I really am on a bitter kick lately, although wait be fair!  This is only just a little, teensy weensy bit bitter.

The peel is softened overnight, soaked in water and juice to lose most of its bite.

Most of it...not all.

Strawberry jam it ain't, is all I'm saying.

But friends and neighbors if you put this junk on a bakery-fresh English muffin you picked up while jogging (jogging with muffins in hands is an acceptable way to add strength-training to your cardio regime)...

Top it with clotted cream, which is like butter but creamier and without the salt.  Like if whipped cream and butter had a baby...

And then dollop on this bittersweet madness, you will just go to food heaven.

You will, I promise.

Sort out your affairs, because it will be the end.

Blood Orange Marmalade
adapted from the love website Food in Jars

1 lb blood oranges (4-5 medium sized fruits)
2 1/2 cups white sugar

Wash oranges well.  Trim away ends and slice in half.  Core with very sharp knife, removing white inside.  Pluck out any seeds you see.  Keep ends and cores for now.

Halve oranges and slice them very thin, about 1/8 inch thickness.  Keep slices together in shape and cut again, quartering the orange.  You should have little triangles of orange.

Bundle up seeds and cores in cheesecloth and tie tightly.  Place chopped oranges and cheesecloth bundle in a medium bowl.  Cover with about 3 cups of water, chill overnight.

Discard cheesecloth bundle.  Combine remaining fruit and water with white sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring marmalade mix to a simmer and cook until reduced by more than half and sugar thermometer reads 220.  When it is finished, pour into prepared jars.  Wipe rims and put on lids, turning them to 'fingertip tightness'.

Submerge jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes,*  Leave to dry and seal overnight.

*!arning, read up on canning here if this is your first attempt.  I can't take responsibility for anybody's botulism!  But really, it's pretty easy once you know the rules.  The botulism-destroying rules.

Thai Lemongrass Sugar Cookies

A little bit of Valentine's love, belated.

These babies are a jealous green, with a mild coconut crumb and a lemon-with-a-twist frost.

Are they really Thai?  Well.  There's a lot of ways to answer that question.

Maybe we should all just travel there and see.

I hope you got good Valentines this year.

Thai Lemongrass Sugar Cookies
Makes 24, cut thick

3 sticks butter (1 1/2 cup)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons coconut extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

For cookies:  In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in dry ingredients.  Cover and chill for at least one hour.

Heat oven to 400F.  Roll out dough on floured surface to 3/4" - 1" thickness.  Using heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 24 heart shapes.  Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets, bake 6-10 minutes or until lightly crisp on edges and firm in centers.

Lemongrass Frosting

2 sticks butter (1 cup)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 drops lemongrass essential oil (food and therapeutic grade both acceptable)
3 tablespoons milk
Food coloring as desired

Whip butter and sugar together, until combined, about 2 minutes.  Add essential oil, milk, and color if using.  Beat 1 more minute.

Cocoa Tea


You guys, sometimes I just think I'm a little bit different.  Taste-wise (and, I guess, hair-wise).

I like things bitter.  I like them dark, and smoky, and if we could get a hint of something being roasted in there, let's do that.

So I've always had a bad relationship with hot chocolate.  I want to love it, I do (it's chocolate! it's hot! what's the problem!).  But it's always a little too much for me.

Much too much.

The powder packets are, of course, far too sweet and often taste artificial.  So I've experimented the past few winters with making my own.  Melting dark chocolate down, whisking in milk and cinnamon.  And sugar.

Still too much.

So I did it, I threw out convention and made it how I wanted it, which was coffee-like.

Dark, hot, bitter.  Customize-able, like coffee. They're both beans, after all.

You could add anything you want - cinnamon, chili powder, coconut, maple, orange.  Making your own is a great toddler activity.

But I like it white - black chocolate, organic cream.  Bingo.

It's not for everybody, I know that.  But I'm so happy I finally found my chocolate.

Cocoa Tea

Makes 1 cup of tea/hot chocolate

1 tablespoon cocoa (any type will do, but the higher quality the better, well, quality)
1 cup water
Cream/vanilla/cinnamon/chili powder/whatever to taste

Put water in pan.  Put cocoa in water.  Bring to boil, remove from heat (it will boil over!).  Pour in cup, customize to liking.  Repeat daily.