Monthly Archive for April, 2011

A Special Easter Egg Treat

Sometimes when I play with food, it is not about the consumption, it is about having another type of an artistic outlet. These are the sweetest eggs you’ll never eat; ergo the perfect gift for kids that have been on an endless sugar overload. To see a little one’s eyes light up when these treats comes into their view is worth all of the fuss. They make a lovely keepsake, and I know I fondly recall the one I received when I was seven.

Decorative Sugar Easter Egg

To make a sugar egg, you will need:

1 egg white

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3-1/2 cup granulated sugar

food coloring (optional)

a large “panoramic egg” candy mold, available at craft and cake decorating stores

egg base candy mold (optional, but recommended)

Pastry bags and tips for decorating the egg

royal icing

royal icing flowers or other candy decorations

toys or pictures to display inside the egg

coconut tinted green or Easter grass to put inside in the egg, unless you want to use icing like I did

thin sheet of flexible plastic (found at craft store, it is like a sheet of paper)

gift box for transporting the eggs to their final destination and for later storage (optional, but recommended)

– make the sugar mixture

Whisk the egg white until it is frothy. If you would like to color your egg, add the food coloring to the egg white and mix well. It is much easier to evenly distribute the color when it is first added to liquid. In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated and powdered sugars so they’re evenly mixed.

Pour the egg white into the sugars and begin stirring. It may seem like there’s not enough liquid, but continue stirring. Gradually the sugar will become more moist and eventually it will have the consistency of damp sand. You want the sugar to clump together if you squeeze it in your hand, but avoid adding additional liquid and making it too wet—that will just increase the drying time.

– fill it

Once your sugar mixture is ready, start filling your egg mold. Scoop the sugar into the mold and pat firmly down, packing it in. You want the egg to be smooth, so press down on the sugar to prevent any small gaps or cracks from forming. If you have excess sugar and want to make more eggs, keep it in a bowl and place a damp paper towel directly over the sugar to prevent it from drying out. If you are using an egg base mold, fill it at this time.

Using the top of a large knife to carefully scrape across the top of the mold, removing any excess sugar. The eggs should have a smooth, even top that is the same level as the mold when finished. Do the same for the egg base, if you are using one.

Place a stiff piece of cardboard directly on the top of the mold. Bracing one hand on the cardboard and the other underneath the mold, quickly flip it upside-down so that the egg halves are now resting on the cardboard. Quickly remove the mold—you should now have two beautiful sugar egg halves. Do the same with another piece of cardboard and your egg base, if you are using one.

– sculpting

At this point, the egg halves need to dry out a little before you can use them. Let them sit at room temperature for about an hour, or to expedite the process, place them in a 200 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Once the eggs have started to set, they need to be hollowed out. It is important to do this when the outside is set enough to hold up, but the insides are still soft. Once the egg has fully set, it cannot be reshaped! There are two ways to make the panoramic window. One is to shave off a portion of the egg to make a vertical display- that has a “window” cut into the side. Alternatively, the eggs I made I were done horizontally, so I shaved off the the front end of both egg halves.

– creating the shell

Continue to scrape the interior of the egg until you have a sugar shell that is about ½-inch thick. You want it to be as thin as possible, while still being sturdy enough to hold together. Continue to gently whittle away to front of the egg until you have removed all of the sugar from the flat portion.

– decorate the eggs

Pipe a small amount of royal icing into the bottom portion of the intact egg half. This is to anchor everything else you add. Add a layer of green-tinted coconut, Easter grass or green frosting, if desired, and press gently to adhere into the egg. Now create a scene inside the egg attaching the decorations with a little icing. Begin to add toys, pictures, small candies, or sugar decorations. It is easiest to add a dab of royal icing to the back or bottom of your decorations to help them stick.

– close the eggs

It is now important to measure a thin piece of viewing plastic; it does not have to be cut perfectly as it will be covered with frosting. Pipe a thin line of royal icing around the lip of the bottom half of the egg. Press the top half down onto the bottom, making sure that they line up evenly. Run your finger around the seam where the eggs meet to remove any excess frosting. You want to do this right away so that it will not begin to harden into unsightly shapes. Allow the egg to sit for about 30 minutes, until the frosting has hardened enough to move the egg without damaging it.

– add finishing touches

Pipe a decorative border around the seams where the two egg halves were joined together. Then taking the plastic ‘window’, pipe a decorative design, such as star tipping, around the opening of the window, to better frame the scene inside and to hide any uneven edges. I usually do not pipe a border on the very bottom of the egg, as this is where it will rest in the egg holder. If you are not using an egg holder or have alternate display plans for your egg, decorate the entire thing.

If you have frosting flowers or other decorations, now is the time to put them on the outside. Use a small dab of royal frosting to secure them to the egg. Add leaves, stems, or any other decorative touches you desire.

If you are using an egg base, pipe some royal icing into the base to secure the egg. Once the outer icing is set, your egg is complete!

To save it, wrap it carefully in paper or plastic and store it in a box in a safe place. Do not refrigerate the egg and do not attempt to eat it! Stored properly, your egg can be saved for many years.

The Scharffen Berger Un-Winner: The Mole Cupcake Revealed

When the propeller on the skull cap starts spinning in the wind, things become crazy in the kitchen. It was the annual Scharffen Berger recipe contest, and despite not having secured a place on the leaderboard, I am proud to have participated. Last year’s submission to the contest was so well received I had to take another whack at it. The contest kicked off at the Second Annual BlogHer Food Conference in San Francisco. Long story short, I was drooling over Chef Elizabeth Falkner’s Scharffen Berger Chocolate Pub Cakes and just couldn’t sit this one out.

{If jotting down your grocery list, please note there are three separate ingredients lists.}

Molten Mole Cupcake Ingredients

8 oz Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate baking chunks (62% cacao)

8 TBS (1 stick) butter, plus 1 TBS (melted)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 TBS Scharffen Berger unsweetened cocoa powder

½ tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp cumin

2 tsps chipotle sauce (no seeds)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar** plus extra 1/3 cup for dusting

3 large eggs

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 large marshmallows

Mexican Hot Chocolate Glaze Ingredients

1 cup half and half

2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into 1 TBS slices

3 TBS light corn syrup

9 oz Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate baking chunks (62% cacao)

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp vanilla extract

Cilantro Pesto Ingredients

4 TBS cilantro, finely chopped

2 TBS granulated sugar

2 tsp pine nuts

Mole Cupcake Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 1 TBS butter and using a pastry brush, coat cupcake tins, then dust each tin with remaining 1/3 cup sugar.

Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Add the flour, cinnamon, cumin, chipotle and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.

Fill 6 cupcake cups halfway. Press a marshmallow into the center of the batter in each cup. Spoon remaining batter equally over marshmallows so that each one is completely covered with batter on all sides. Place in the center of oven and bake for 14-16 minutes, until tops are puffed and crackly. While cupcakes bake begin to make glaze and pesto.

Upon removing cupcakes from oven, gently run knife around the edges to loosen. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Remove from pan by slightly inverting and place each cupcake on dessert plate and cover with glaze and pesto.

Serve warm. Yields 6 cupcakes.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Glaze Directions

In a medium saucepan, on low temperature, heat the half and half, butter and corn syrup until cream is hot and the butter has melted. The mixture should start to bubble, and register at 175 degrees on a thermometer; do not let it come to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate and let it sit in the half and half for 30 seconds to soften. Add the chili powder, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk the sauce until it is smooth and all of the chocolate has melted.

Sauce can be used warm or left at room temperature until it reaches the desired thickness. To store additional sauce, pour cooled sauce into a covered bowl and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, spoon sauce into a saucepan and heat over low heat.

Cilantro Pesto Directions

Mix all together in a food processor. Place dollop on top of each cupcake.

Congratulations to the 2010 Scharffen Berger Winners!

Savory Mushroom Sausage Strudel

In light of life’s adversity, I’ve been on a constant quest to be comforted. Like many in my family, any attempt to comfort oneself tends to manifest in preparing food and then consuming it. The greater the stress, the more delectables on hand. This was an easy recipe to pull together and I can envision it served as an appetizer, lunch or dinner dish. Better yet, this hearty strudel can be made ahead and frozen to quickly prepare for that on the spot company that ‘just dropped by’ for a quick visit.

Savory Sausage Mushroom Strudel

Ingredients

1 lb mild Italian sausage, casings removed

1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, chopped

1 tsps dried thyme

3 TBS Dijon mustard

1/2 cup sour cream

8 sheets Phyllo Dough, thawed

1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

In a medium-size skillet, sauté sausage over medium-high heat. Break up sausage with a fork until cooked and crumbled.

Add mushrooms and thyme and sauté over high heat until all of the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown. Set aside and cool.

Remove 4 sheets of phyllo and place on a wax paper or other clean flat surface. Using a pastry brush, coat each individual sheet of dough with olive oil. Once all 4 sheets are oiled and layered upon one another, mix sour cream and Dijon into the sausage and meat mixture. Leaving a 2-inch boarder, spoon half of he filling in a log shape along one long end of the phyllo dough. Fold phyllo over the filling, tuck in the ends and roll up. Brush the top of the log with olive oil. Repeat with 4 more sheets of phyllo dough and remaining filling. Again, brush top of log with olive oil.

If not baking immediately, wrap in foil, strudles may be refrigerated overnight or frozen up to two weeks. Thaw in refrigerator or at room temperature.

Oven rack should be positioned in the upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On greased baking sheet, place strudles seam side down approximately 2-inches apart. Slice into 1 1/2-inch pieces cutting only halfway to the bottom, if serving as appetizers, otherwise cut into 2 1/2 inch pieces once fully baked. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. To serve, cut through slices.

Makes 2 strudels, 12 slices per each