24 2 / 2012

It’s February.  Generally the coldest month of the year for us here in the mid-atlantic region. It’s the time for hot chocolate, sledding, sleeping in, fleece blankets, and mulled wine.  Today, it was 72 degrees.  Snow count for winter 2012 where I’m located: 0.2 inches.  Needless to say, nature seems ready for summer.  On the other hand, society is longing for a blizzard.  In this warmth, I’m longing for a snow cone…and my favorite mulled wine. Solution: Mulled Wine Granita in a dark chocolate cup.

"Granita": It can be best described as Italian ice, or shaved ice. 

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of sweet red wine or red table wine
  • juice of 1 orange as well as it’s rind (for the mulled wine and for garnish)
  • juice of 2 lemons as well as 1 rind for mulled wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6-8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white-you pick!  In this recipe I use the dark chocolate chips)
  • Fresh mint sprigs (for garnish)

Other supplies: chocolate molds for making chocolate cups (these can be found at art supply stores like Michael’s.  These cups are made of a thin rubber which allow the chocolate cups to be removed from the mold quite easily. 

Step 1: The mulled wine
In a large pot, add the bottle of wine, lemon juice, orange juice, lemon rind, 3/4 of the orange rind, cloves, cinnamon stick, and sugar.  Slowly, bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it is boiling, reduce to a simmer and allow it to simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. 

Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, pour into a shallow, flat bottomed plastic container and pop it into the freezer until solid.

P.S. The mulled wine will make your home smell amazingly good.

Step 2: The cup

While the wine is in freezer, make the chocolate cups.  Melt the chocolate chips (I used half a bag for 4 cups, use more or less depending on the amount of cups you’re making).  Then, fill your mold with the melted chocolate.  Then, turn the mold upside down for the excess chocolate to empty out.  This will leave you with just enough chocolate to make your cup!  Set the cup aside until the chocolate is solid.  To quicken up the process you can put the mold in the fridge until the chocolate is solid.

Once the chocolate cup is solid, gentlyyyy peel back the mold taking care not to break the cup.  If you’re anything like me, it’ll drive you up the wall.  Set cups aside.  You’ll fill these with the granita once it’s ready to scoop!

Step 3: The garnish

For the garnish we will use fresh mint sprigs and flaked candied orange rind.  in order to make the candied rind, first make a small batch of simple syrup by adding 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Using a wooden spoon, gently dip each piece of rind into the simple syrup, and then immediately roll it around in granulated sugar.  Allow them to dry and you have a nice little garnish!

Step 4: Putting it all together

Now that the granita is fully frozen you’re ready to serve!  Using a table spoon, simply scrape the granita and place it into the chocolate cup until it’s full.  Garnish with a mint sprig and a flake of candied orange rind.  Super refreshing but yet keeps your soul in touch with winter. Enjoy! ^_^

~Isabella

15 2 / 2012

It’s mid-week and the day after Valentine’s Day.  Let me just say, yesterday was nuts.  People dashing frantically into grocery stores last minute to pick up roses and cheap chocolate like it’s the apocalypse.  Romantic, eh?  Anyways, being around all the hustle and bustle made me want to offer the poor souls a drink.  A chocolate-y, easy to make cure for the madness.  (drumroll) Rum Balls!

Bam!  So here’s how it’s done:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of dark rum (you can use any rum but I like the taste of the dark)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Box of Vanilla Wafers
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground or chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Toppings: extra cocoa powder, powdered sugar, jimmies/ sprinkles, white chocolate, dark chocolate, vanilla sugar, or whatever else your heart desires!

In all, this recipe takes about 20 minutes to complete:

  1. Toast the nuts in the over for extra flavor.  To do this, spread a thin layer on a cookie sheet and pop them in over on 375F for about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool, then chop by hand or give them a whirl in a food processor.
  2. Place the vanilla wafers in a food processor until they are finely ground.
  3. Sift the cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered sugar in a large bowl and add the rum and honey.  Mix well and then add the nuts and ground wafers.
  4. Mix well and then place mixture in the fridge for about an hour, or in the freezer for 15 minutes.  (I’m slightly impatient, so I took the freezer route) The mixture will look dry, but do not fear-it’s perfect!
  5. Taking the mixture between your palms, form balls.  If you shoot for about a 1 inch diameter, then you’ll come out with roughly 40 rum balls.
  6. Roll the balls in whichever coatings you choose! If you’re rolling them in chocolate, add a bit of butter while melting the chocolate for an easier to work with consistency. 
  7. Place the rum balls in mini cupcake liners for a nice finishing touch.  Then, pack them in an air tight container and leave them in the fridge over night…they get better with time!

And there’s your cure for Valentine’s Day madness.  Nothing like a little rum and chocolate to help ease anxiety. =)

Until next time,

Isabella

03 1 / 2012

For her birthday, my Mom said she wanted me to make Chestnut cupcakes.  Instantaneously, I wondered where in the world I would get chestnuts.  Lucky for this daughter, I found chestnuts at Trader Joe’s and also a can of Hero chestnut puree.  Voila! The hard part was over.

For this challenge, I decided to make a Vanilla cupcake with a chestnut puree filling and a vanilla buttercream to top as well as a candied chestnut to garnish.

1.)  I started by candying the chestnuts first.  There was no way I was going to roast them from scratch so I found some already roasted at Trader Joe’s.  

True candied/caramelized chestnuts are called “Marrons Glaces” and take several days to prepare.  We’re working on a bit of a time crunch here so this is the short way:

Candied Chestnuts with Rum 

-approx. 12 chestnuts, cut into fourths

-1 cup granulated sugar

-2 cups water

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-1/4 (ish) cup of rum

Start by making your simple syrup by adding the sugar and water to a pot.  Let the sugar dissolve.  In the meantime, cut the chestnuts into fourths.  As soon as you see that the sugar is dissolved, throw your chestnuts in there with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and allow them to simmer.  In about 30 minutes, you’ll see that the liquid has turned to a golden brown and that it has reduced a whole lot.  It should be thick and syrupy.  At this point, add your rum.  Again, let it keep simmering on low heat until it reduces.  Turn off the heat and allow them to cool.  They should be thick and sticky!

I’m not going to lie, I probably ate half of these in the process…

2.)  The Vanilla Cupcake

What you need:

The liquidy stuff

-1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature

-1/2 cup sour cream (don’t try low fat)

-3 lg. eggs at room temperature (1 whole egg, 2 yolks)

-2 tsp. all natural vanilla extract

The dry stuff

-1 cup granulated sugar

-1/2 tsp. iodized salt

-1 1/3 cup flour (all-purpose)

-1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat your oven 350F.  Sift all the dry together in one bowl.  Mix all the liquidy ingredients in another bowl.  Using a hand mixer or a standing mixer, slowly add the dry mixture to the wet.  Scrape down the sides using a spatula every once in a while to make sure it’s all well integrated.  Line a cupcake tin with paper liners…I’d say this recipe makes about 18 cupcakes but I swear it never comes out the same every time.  After your mixture is nice and smooth, use an ice cream scooper to fill the liners.  Bake for about 22 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  If unsure, stick a toothpick in there and if it comes out clean they’re done!  Let them cool and remove from the tin as soon as they’re cool enough to handle.  

 

3.) When they’re cool, punch a hole in the middle.  You can buy these nifty little “cupcake corers” at the store, but the back of any cooking utensil works fine.  I use the flat handle-side of a bottle opener.  After you do that, take your:

-1 1/2 c. chestnut puree (buy it canned)

-1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

Using a mixer, combine these two ingredient until they’re well intregrated.  Using a piping bag, fill the cupcakes.  If you have a cookie press, that works just fine to get the filling inside of the cupcake also.  They should look kind of like this….

I took the liberty of drizzling some of the liquid from the candied chestnuts in there for extra flavor.

4.) Last Step: Vanilla Buttercream and garnish

What you’ll need:

-2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature

-4 cups powdered sugar

-1 tablespoon vanilla extract

-4 tablespoons of heavy cream

Beat the butter on medium until it is nice and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar little by little and turn your mixer on low.  I like to add the powdered sugar in half a cup at a time so I don’t cause a blizzard of sugar in the kitchen.  Do this until the butter and sugar are fully combined.  Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and mix on medium.  If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar.  If it’s too thick, add more heavy cream.  Don’t be afraid to play with it a little!

Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes using your favorite tip.  Garnish with a few pieces of your caramelized chestnuts (make sure they’re 100% cool!).  I also added some crushed meringues for a holiday “snow” effect.  =) 

The Final Product:

~Isabella