Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cupcakes! Cupcakes!

The world seems to be going crazy over cupcakes.  There are cookbooks devoted  to cupcakes, bakeries for cupcakes, blogs about cupcakes. The word, cupcake, is even used as a term of endearment.
I don't get it!  I just don't!  It's just a cake in a little piece of paper baked in a muffin tin.  Well, there's the old saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  So this week I'm joining the 'cupcakers'.  Only for one week, so don't get too excited.

I decided to post on cupcakes for my little friend, Carson.  She drops by sometimes to give me a hand in the lab.  And cupcakes are her favorite thing to bake.  So Carson, this is for you!

I decided to make chocolate cream-filled cupcakes.  I thought chocolate would be a good place to start for someone not into cupcakes.  This recipe contains a few steps, but it is easy to make.  So, grab your little cupcake and head to the kitchen.

Chocolate Cream-filled Cupcakes

Makes 24.


1 package (18.25 ounce) devil's food cake mix
1 jar (7 ounce) marshmallow creme
1 stick butter
6 ounces dark chocolate
¾ cup whipping cream


1.  Prepare cake mix according to package directions.  Fill 24 muffin wrappers.

2.  Bake according to package directions.

3.  In a medium bowl, combine softened butter and marshmallow creme.  Mix thoroughly to combine.  Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

4.  Break chocolate into small pieces.  Combine chocolate and whipping cream.  Melt chocolate over low heat.  Stir thoroughly to combine.

5.  Attach a round pastry tip to a pastry bag.  Place cream filling in bag.  Squeeze to remove air pockets.  Push pastry tip into top of cupcake and fill center of cake. (I count to 20 to get enough filling into cupcake.)  Remove excess filling from top. 

6.  Dip top of cupcakes into chocolate.  Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.  Dip cupcakes again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring is on the Way!

Well, I am not sure if spring is on the way or if Mother Nature is playing with us.  But whatever, in the Midwest it's in the 70's.  That means we can take the cover off the grill and head outdoors.

Salmon always makes me think of spring.  Not sure why, but it does.  So this week, I am posting on salmon.  This dish is easy, peasy.  Because you gotta go enjoy this nice spring weather.  'Cause in the Midwest, we could have snow next week!

Salmon with a Mustard Sauce

Serves 1.

1 (4 ounce) salmon fillet
Olive or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar

1.  Coat salmon with a small amount of oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

2.  Either broil or grill fish.  Combine mustard and brown sugar.  Brush fish with mustard mixture in the final few minutes of cooking.  Pass any extra sauce with the fish. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

National Pi(e) Day

March 14th is National Pi(e) Day.  Oh, I get it, pi is 3.14 and those geeks thought a foodie would miss the pun. 

The idea for this posting started, not with National Pi(e) Day, but when someone approached me with a problem they were having with lemon meringue pie.  You see, here is the problem.  A layer of water formed between the filling and the meringue.  I approached one of my foodie colleagues about this problem.  Her reply, "Well, I never liked meringue.  So as far as I am concerned that's a good thing.  Makes it easier to take the meringue off."  OK, so she wasn't going to be any help.

I checked out one of my favorite resources, Bakewise by Shirley Corriher.  According to Ms. Corriher, the watery layer between the filling and the meringue is caused by undercooking.  When meringues do not cook completely, the egg whites weep as they slowly dissolve and release liquid.  Meringues also bead when they have been cooked at too high of a temperature.  Beading is caused by proteins on the surface that overcook and squeeze out moisture.   

Another issue with meringue topped pies is shrinking away from the filling.  The addition of cornstarch aids in a reduction of shrinkage. 

For those of you who just want to bake a good pie for National Pi(e) Day, here is my 'perfect' lemon meringue pie.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Serves 8.


6 whole graham crackers
¼ cup butter, melted
18 vanilla wafers

1 can (14 ounce) plus cup sweetened condensed milk
½ cup fresh lemon juice
3 large egg yolks

3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup sugar, divided
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
cup water
Grated rind of 1lemon


1. Crust:  Finely grind graham crackers in food processor.  Add melted butter and blend until moist crumbs form.  Press into the bottom (not the sides) of a 9-inch pie plate.  Arrange vanilla wafers, rounded side out, around the side of the dish.  Set aside.

2.  Filling:  Preheat oven to 325°F. 

3.  Whisk together milk, lemon juice and egg yolks.  Let stand 15 minutes to thicken.  Pour filling over crust and bake for 30 minutes.

4.  Meringue:  In a small saucepan, combine 3 tablespoons of sugar and cornstarch.  Add water and stir.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.  Cool 10 minutes.

5.  In a large bowl, combine egg whites and lemon juice.  Beat egg whites until foamy.  Gradually, add the remaining 5 tablespoons sugar, beating to the soft peak stage.  Beat in warm cornstarch, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Beat until meringue forms glossy peaks.  Gently fold in lemon rind.

6.  Spread meringue over hot filling.  Make sure meringue covers the entire surface, including the crust.  Increase oven temperature to 350°F  and bake until meringue is golden brown, about 18 minutes.  Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.