Monthly Archives

February 2010

Lemon Meringue Shortbread Tart

February 26, 2010

High school graduation parties are supposed to be for the graduate, right? Wrong. Everyone knows that graduation parties, like weddings, are just as much for the parents as they are for the children themselves. Case in point? My 2006 high school graduation party.

Where I’m from, graduation parties are a big deal – probably too much so since everyone just goes from party to party eating bad cake and the same punch at every party. My cousin and I decided since we had so many overlapping guests, we would celebrate our graduation with a joint party – a joint party with great food. Our Mexican-themed party was catered by my cousin’s favorite restaurant, but we decided to make the desserts ourselves.

So what did ‘we’ decide to make? Lemon bars – 500 of them to be exact. I don’t particularly care for lemon bars. I usually feel like there is an over-abundance of too-sweet lemon custard that, despite the high amount of sugar, never leaves my sweet tooth satisfied. But back to the graduation party. Why did I make 500 lemon bars? Because my dear mother loves lemon bars. Like I said, don’t fool yourselves kids, your big life moments are for your parents.

Four years later, after the graduation trauma of ’06, I finally felt ready to make a lemon dessert for a couple of reasons. First, both with my wardrobe and my baking I’m hoping I can will spring to come to the Midwest after another blisteringly cold week. Second, lemons are cheap right now, unlike many other times throughout the year. The process may look long, but don’t let that intimidate you. They really are simple to make, and taste makes them worth the effort.


*2 tablespoons powdered sugar

*2 tablespoons granulated sugar
*10 tablespoons butter, cut into 5 cubes

*1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
*4 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
*3/4 cup sugar

*1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 medium lemons)

*4 Tbsp. butter (softened)
*1/8 tsp. salt

*2 tsp. lemon zest

*1 tsp. vanilla extract

*4 oz. cream cheese
*4 egg whites

*2 Tbsp. powdered sugar


*Preheat oven to 325
*F. Lightly grease a 10-inch tart pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. (if you don’t have a tart pan, you can use a cake pan, baking dish, pie plate, etc. Just improvise. As long as it’s within the 8- to 10-inch range you will be fine.)

*Place sugars in a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Add in butter and pulse until the butter and sugar are well combined. Add in flour and pulse until mixture forms a dough, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to tart pan. Press into pan and half way up the sides of the pan. Prick the bottom of the shortbread with a fork.
*Bake shortbread in oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden but not brown.

*Meanwhile, prepare lemon custard. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice. Add in butter and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until custard thickens but is still pouring consistency, about 8 minutes. Be careful not to boil the custard. Once thickened, add in lemon zest and vanilla extract. Transfer mixture to a blender. Add in cream cheese and blend for 30 seconds, or until mixture is smooth and well-combined. Transfer custard to baked tart shell. Set aside.
*With an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add egg whites to bowl. Beat on high for one minute. Add in powdered sugar. Continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue atop custard, making sure to spread it all the way to the tart edges. This prevents the meringue from pulling away from the sides when baking.
*Return tart to oven and bake for 10 minutes. For a more golden meringue, switch the oven to broil the last 2 minutes of baking. Remove from oven and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Serve and enjoy!

Happy Baking! Madison

Coconut Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling and Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

February 24, 2010

I’m not saying Martha Stewart should hand over her perfectly polished crown to me for good, but these cupcakes might make her reconsider lending it to me for the day, or maybe the week. Heck, these cupcakes are so darn good they may warrant the whole month. It’s a bit of a shame cupcakes have become so trendy and popular that they’ve become a cliché. Because no matter how many cupcakes I taste or see, they never cease to stop me in my tracks. Something about them makes me feel like I’m 5 years old and I absolutely have to have one
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a bad cupcake. Like pizza, there are just amazing cupcakes, less amazing, and good. Unless you make Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Then there is such a thing as a bad cupcake. Learn from my mistake and just make these instead. 
Being the responsible blogger that I am, I decided to try a cupcake myself to be sure they fell in the ‘amazing’ category before I shared them with you all. Now I can safely say that these cupcakes don’t just turn out, they have the most amazing texture and flavor. Biting into one is how I would imagine it feels to bite into a cloud, with pillowly, sweet cream cheese frosting and a cakey base that is sturdy enough to support the frosting without being overly dense. I could go on and wax poetic a few more paragraphs, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. 
This (above) is coconut cream. Below the cream is the coconut milk. 

*1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
*1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
*1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
*2 cups granulated sugar
*4 large eggs
*1/2 cup coconut milk
*1/2 cup milk 
*2 tsp. coconut extract 
*1 cup shaved coconut 

*3/4 cup raspberry preserves 

*4 oz. cream cheese 
*1/2 stick butter, softened
*1/4 cup coconut cream from top of coconut milk (see photo above) 
*4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
*2 tsp. coconut extract 
Additional coconut for garnishing (optional)

*Preheat oven to 350*F. Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners. 
*In a bowl, combine flours; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in coconut milk, followed by half of the flour mixture. Repeat with milk and remaining flour mixture, beating just until combined. Beat in coconut extract and shaved coconut. 
*Spoon batter into cupcake lines, 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire racks. 
*Once cooled, with a paring knife, make a well in the center of each cupcake. Spoon a teaspoon of the raspberry preserves into each well. Cover with part of the removed cupcake.
*For the frosting, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and coconut cream. Add the powdered sugar in three additions. Beat in coconut extract. 
*Top each cupcake with frosting and garnish with shredded coconut. 
Happy Baking!


February 23, 2010

When I first started Espresso + Cream, I vowed to share both successes and failures in the kitchen with all you dear readers. Though it’s much easier to share culinary triumphs and pretend the failures didn’t happen, especially when blogging from the secrecy of my own apartment, I thought I’d let you in on a little mishap that has kept me from posting as soon as I would have liked to.

In my mind, Martha Stewart is someone to be revered, respected, and admired. She is flawless, as are her recipes. Growing up, Martha was a presence in my home through her recipes and decorating and entertaining advice. But yesterday, Martha failed me big time. I have made a few delicious cupcakes in my time, even some delicious carrot cake cupcakes, but I thought when I saw the cupcakes (above) on Martha’s website, that these would be the carrot cake cupcakes to trump all others. I went to the grocery store, bought what I needed (walnuts are not cheap!) and set to work making these cupcakes. I took a second look at the recipe. Really only 3/4 cup flour? Could that be right? “It’s Martha’s recipe, for goodness sake! Trust it!” I told myself. I filled the cupcake liners, popped them in the oven, and waited to see how 3/4 cup flour could possibly yield delicious, cakey, goodness.

Twenty-five minutes later, I was nothing short of dismayed. The cupcakes had risen, so much so that they overflowed, and then they sunk, like sad, fallen, dejected soufflés. Not even able to be rescued by the cream cheese frosting I had prepared, I tossed the little cups of gooey cake in the trash. The whole experience left me feeling defeated, frustrated, and confused. Since I didn’t have what I needed in the house to start over on another cupcake recipe, one I knew would work, I have delayed posting until I can share with you something better. Hopefully that’s what tomorrow morning will bring. 🙂

Here’s to succeeding and failing in the kitchen!


Homemade Peanut Butter Patties

February 18, 2010

I’m going away for the weekend and will not be taking my computer, so instead of leaving you hanging until Sunday, I wanted to give you a little something to occupy your time and taste buds this weekend.

What, you ask, is enough to make me unveil these cookies earlier than planned? I’ll be visiting my best friend and boyfriend, but more importantly, I’ll be meeting the bf’s best friends. When meeting new people, I find bringing along a little something sweet is both a nice gesture and a sneaky act of bribery, and as far as bribery goes, I’m pretty sure peanut butter and chocolate have a nearly perfect success rate. Just in case these little peanut butter patties fail, I’m bringing along reinforcements for support: a batch of those chocolate chip banana mini-muffins from my previous post, and chocolate truffles (recipe to come).

So off I go, goodie basket in hand, leaving you with the recipe for Homemade Peanut Butter Patties. They’re incredibly easy, despite having three components, and fairly hard to mess up. The biggest mistake I made while baking them was making the cookies themselves too big. Start with a heaping teaspoon, roll it into a ball, and slightly flatten with your fingers into a disc. Get that down, and it’s practically foolproof. I cannot claim this recipe as my own, I found it via another blog, Love and Olive Oil, who adapted it from another recipe from the site Baking Bites. And here I am, passing it along once again. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know what is.

Peanut Butter Patties

Makes about 3 dozen. Recipe adapted from Baking Bites.

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (natural or regular)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
generous pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

about 8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2 oz cocoa butter OR 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk. The dough should come together into a soft ball.

Take a tablespoon full of dough and flatten it into a disc about 1/4-inch thick. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Cookies will not spread too much, so you can arrange them fairly closely together.

Bake cookies for 11-13 minutes, until bottoms and the edges are lightly browned and cookies are set.

Immediately after removing cookies from the oven, use your thumb or a small spoon to make a depression in the center of each cookie. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make filling, whisk together peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, salt and vanilla in a small microwave-safe bowl. When the mixture has come together, heat it in the microwave (in short intervals, stirring frequently), until it is soft. Working carefully with the warm filling, transfer it to a pastry bag (or plastic bag with the tip cut off) and pipe a generous dome of the filling into each cookie’s “thumbprint”.

Chill filled cookies for 20-30 minutes, or until the peanut butter is firm.

Melt the chocolate and cocoa butter in a small, heat-resistant bowl placed over a small saucepan filled with simmering (not boiling) water.

Dip chilled cookies into chocolate, let excess drip off, and place on a sheet of parchment paper to set.

Happy Baking!


Banana Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins

February 17, 2010

For someone who would rather eat a bowl of broccoli for breakfast than eat a banana, I love banana bread an awful lot. In that sense, there’s something fascinating about bananas. Put them in a smoothie, oatmeal, or bread, and they become something so much more than you would ever guess when eating a banana on its own.

If you have bananas that are a bit too ripe, chances are you’ve made banana bread. Chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’ve also been a little more than disappointed. In the past I’ve made too many recipes that leave me less than enthusiastic. Dry, unevenly cooked, flavorless, you get the idea. Maybe it has something to do with the amount of time, close to an hour, that most banana bread loaves spend in the oven in order to cook all the way through.

I would like to tell you I’ve solved the problems with banana bread loaves, but I haven’t, I was a lazy baker and took the cheap way out, putting this delicious, spiced batter in mini muffin cups, solving the long baking time problem, since the mini-muffins are ready in under 15 minutes.

The result was exactly how I had hoped. A short baking time lets the banana flavor shine through and reduces the risk of burnt chocolate at the bottom of the liners. Chocolate chips were a last-minute addition since I had them on hand, though I can only imagine that butterscotch or peanut butter chips would be nice, too.

*1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
*1/3 cup granulated sugar
*1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
*1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
*1 tsp. ground cinnamon
*1/4 tsp. nutmeg
*1 tsp. coarse sea salt
*2 large ripe bananas, mashed
*1 egg
*1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
*1/4 cup milk
*1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Muffin liners (mini or regular, if desired)

*Preheat oven to 350*F. Arrange muffin liners on baking sheet. (I didn’t have mini-muffin cup tins, so I just put muffin liners on a baking sheet and it worked just fine)
*Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. (flour through sea salt)
*In another bowl, mix together bananas, egg, butter, and milk until well combined.
*Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring with a spoon until just combined. Do not over mix. Stir in chocolate chips.
*Spoon batter into muffin liners, filling with a heaping teaspoon each, about 2/3 of the way full.
*Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until tops are lightly golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. If you are using regular sized muffin liners, plan on around 25-30 minutes.
*Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Happy Baking!