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Feb 14, 2016
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Baked: Lemon-Pepper Chicken Wings

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

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Growing up in Atlanta, an order of lemon-pepper chicken wings was one of my favorite meals. I could usually find these citrusy, pepper-spiked drummies on almost any menu. But since I moved to St Louis, I can’t seem to find the perfect lemon-pepper wing in town, so I set out to make my own.

I tried different variations using lemon juice or lemon zest with black pepper, but none captured the original flavor I craved until I found Penzeys lemon pepper seasoning. This blend uses dried and ground lemon peel that provides a tart citrus zing. Check your label; you may need to add salt if not listed among the ingredients. These baked wings crisp up just as well any deep-fried counterpart and make a bright addition to a Super Bowl spread. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Lemon-Pepper Chicken Wings
1 to 2 servings

1 lb. skin-on chicken wings and drumettes
4 Tbsp. Penzeys lemon-pepper seasoning
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt as needed

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
• In a large mixing bowl, toss the chicken wings with the lemon-pepper seasoning, olive oil and salt until evenly coated. Spread the wings in a single layer on the baking sheet.
• Bake 50 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Serve hot.

 

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings

 

Baked: Fudgy Banana Muffins

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

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When you have ripe bananas, you can toss them in your next smoothie, or you can make a sweet dessert. Baked goods made with bananas are a great compromise. The fruit’s moisture means you don’t need oil or butter, and its natural sweetness means you can reduce the sugar. The double-dose of cocoa powder and chocolate chips creates a fudgy texture with a strong banana flavor. It’s a great way to use up ripe fruit and indulge in a dessert that won’t break a healthy diet. Enjoy and happy baking!

 
Fudgy Banana Muffins
Adapted from a recipe at Our Best Bites
1 dozen

3 large, extra-ripe bananas
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup chopped pecans or other nuts

• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
• In a large mixing bowl, smash the bananas. Stir in the sugar, yogurt, egg and vanilla extract until combined.
• Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the wet ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the dry ingredients until combined, then add the chocolate chips and pecans.
• Fill the cupcake liners evenly with the batter. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining chocolate chips and bake 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
• Let cool a few minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings

 

Baked: Eggs en Cocotte

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

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I first tried eggs in cocotte during brunch at Brasserie. A piping hot cast-iron skilled arrived at my table filled with bacon and creamy spinach topped with fresh eggs and served with crisp smashed potatoes. (Want to try your hand at Brasserie’s version? Click here for the recipe.)

Versatility is eggs en cocotte’s greatest strength. For my home version, I added smoked salmon, broccolini and creme fraiche – all because they were at hand in my refrigerator. For perfect baked eggs, pull the dish from the oven just before the whites are set. They will continue cooking a few minutes after removing from the oven. This dish makes a wonderful brunch addition or a decadent weekday breakfast all for yourself. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Eggs en Cocotte
6 servings

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch broccolini, woody ends removed
½ cup chopped mixed mushrooms
12 oz. smoked salmon
6 Tbsp. creme fraiche, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 eggs
Handful chopped green onions

• Coat 6 ramekins with nonstick spray and place in a large deep baking dish. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
• In a saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat and saute the broccolini and mushrooms about 5 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Set aside.
• Evenly divide the smoked salmon and place the slices in the bottom of the ramekins, then top each with ½ tablespoon creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper.
• Evenly divide the broccolini and mushroom mixture among the ramekins, then top each with 2 eggs and ½ tablespoon creme fraiche.
• Fill the baking dish with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully slide the baking dish into the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the egg whites are almost cooked through.
• Garnish with chopped green onions and let cool slightly before serving.

 

Baked: Butternut Squash Pizza

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

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This is an easy, quick weeknight meal. Mildly sweet squash is perfectly paired with a tangy onion jam and a hint of spice from crushed red pepper flakes. Served as a pizza topping with my favorite garlic and herbs cheese (feel free to substitute goat cheese, feta or ricotta), it’s tasty and addictive. You won’t miss the classic tomato sauce. Enjoy and happy baking!

 
Butternut Squash Pizza
Adapted from a Food 52 recipe
2 to 3 servings

4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
¾ lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Coarse sea salt to taste
1 12- to 16 oz.-container of pizza dough
1½ ounces Boursin cheese
¼ cup fully cooked ground turkey (optional)
Handful of arugula
Balsamic vinegar

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the squash and saute until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the squash and set aside.
• Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and saute 15 minutes, until light brown. Add the vinegar and maple syrup and stir every few minutes until thick and reduced, 15 to 30 minutes.
• Add the onion mixture to the squash and mash lightly, leaving some chunks. Add the red pepper flakes and season to taste with salt. Set aside.
• Roll the pizza dough out onto a pizza stone or baking sheet in an even layer. Spread the butternut squash mixture evenly across the dough, then sprinkle with Boursin cheese. Add the ground turkey, if desired.
• Bake 15 minutes, until the crust is cooked through. Dress with arugula and let wilt, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar before slicing and serving.

Baked: Tres Leches Cake

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

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To prepare for a recent Mexican-themed dinner party, I hit the Internet seeking a classic tres leches cake recipe. My exhaustive search inspired me to create my own, an amalgam of techniques and ingredients that yielded a sweet, thick slab of milky cake topped with bourbon whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon. The best part of the recipe is that the cake can be made days in advance, leaving you plenty of time to plan the rest of your fiesta.

 

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from a recipe at Sweet Pea’s Kitchen 
6 to 8 servings

7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
½ cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon, plus more for dusting
1½ Tbsp. corn syrup
1 Tbsp. bourbon

• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
• Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a microwave-safe medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on low about 3 to 5 minutes, then stir, cover and microwave another 3 to 5 minutes, until the milk darkens and thickens. Slowly whisk in the evaporated milk, ½ cup heavy cream and vanilla. Set aside to cool.
• Meanwhile, butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan and dust with flour. Set aside.
• In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the butter and milk until the butter melts. Remove from heat and set aside.
• In a large bowl, use a mixer on medium speed to beat the eggs 30 seconds, then slowly add the sugar. Increase the speed to high and beat 5 to 7 minutes, until thick and glossy. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the butter mixture and vanilla.
• Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into the egg-butter mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture just until combined, but do not overmix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on wire rack at least 10 minutes.
• Using a chopstick or skewer, poke holes on top of the cake at ½-inch intervals. Slowly pour the milk mixture over cake. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes, then refrigerate, uncovered, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
• In a medium bowl, use a mixer on medium speed to beat the remaining ½ cup heavy cream, corn syrup and bourbon about 2 minutes, until soft peaks form. Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake.
• The cake can be assembled and refrigerated up to 3 days. Dust the cake with ground cinnamon and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

 

Baked: Mini Doughnut Muffins

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

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I’m terrified to fry at home ever since an incident five years ago when my pan caught fire mid-recipe. That was the end of homemade doughnuts at our house. I was skeptical that a baked version would capture the same flavors of fried doughnuts, but I was so wrong. Baking makes them healthier, and doing the work at home – in a mini-muffin tin, no less – opens up so many flavor possibilities. My favorite one was lemon curd and raspberry jam mixed together, but feel free to try different jams and glazes as you desire. Be prepared: You can’t eat just one. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Lemon-Raspberry Mini Doughnut Muffins
Adapted from a recipe from Butter Me Up 
6 servings

6 Tbsp. butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing
1½ cup flour, plus more for dusting
1¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup raspberry jam
¼ cup lemon curd
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. milk or water

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 24-cup mini-muffin tin and set aside.
• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
• In another large bowl, use an electric mixer on high speed to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined, then add the buttermilk and beat until incorporated. Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.
• Evenly divide the batter into the muffin cups and fill them to capacity. Smooth the tops so the batter is flush with the rims. Bake 14 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool.
• Scoop the center out of each muffin and use a piping bag to fill the centers of each with raspberry jelly and lemon curd.
• Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk, adding more liquid as needed to achieve a glaze consistency. Brush the tops of each muffin with the glaze and let set.

Add a little cocoa powder to the glaze to sate a chocolate craving. For a cinnamon-sugar fix, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix together ¼ cup sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Dip the muffins into the butter, then the cinnamon-sugar and let dry.

Baked: Thai Coconut Muffins

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

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My Thai coconut macarons are popular among my friends and family, so I wondered if the flavors would translate to muffins. These turned out moist with a hint of Thai tea and a creamy coconut flavor, and their crunchy crumb topping added texture. They do take a little more work than typical muffins, but if you are a fan of Thai tea, they’re well worth it. Enjoy and happy baking!

 
Thai Coconut Muffins
20 servings

⅓ cup buttermilk
¼ cup Thai tea*
2 Tbsp. chilled butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) room-temperature butter
2 eggs
2½ cups cake flour
¼ cup canola oil
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. kosher salt

• In a small saucepan, heat the tea in the buttermilk over medium heat until the mixture starts to simmer. Remove from heat; let steep 15 minutes.
• Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with 20 paper liners.
• In a medium bowl, mix the coconut, brown sugar, flour and the 2 tablespoons chilled butter with fingertips until well combined and crumbly; set aside.
• In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and remaining 1 stick butter on high until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until combined.
• Pour the buttermilk mixture through a strainer into the egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the cake flour, oil, coconut extract, baking soda and salt until combined, but do not overmix.
• Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter. Crumbled the brown sugar mixture evenly over cupcakes. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool slightly, then serve.

* Thai tea (or Cha Thai) is available at Seafood City Grocery Store or Olive Supermarket

Baked: Tricolor Almond Cake

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

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I recently tried one of Piccione Pastry’s tricolor cookies and fell in love. It’s a cake-like cookie made with almond paste, dyed three different colors, sandwiched with apricot or raspberry jam and coated in chocolate. I usually don’t like fruit and chocolate combinations, but this simply works. I wondered what it would be like in a giant cake form, so I set out to try to make a tricolor cake for an almond-loving friend.

I had plenty to go around and sent many slices to everyone I knew. They all sent me messages raving about how delicious it was. The cake is very soft and not too heavy, despite its density from the amount of almond filling used. Instead of almond paste, I opted for almond pastry filling, which is lighter and readily available in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. I also drizzled a few tablespoons of amaretto over each cake before sandwiching them together for boozy almond goodness.

If you even think you might like almond desserts, bake this cake. It takes a bit of work if you don’t have three of the same pan (I had to take turns baking each layer in my single loaf pan), but the effort is well worth it when you slice to those gorgeous colors.

 

Tricolor Italian Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Alejandra Ramos
Makes 1 9-by-5-inch loaf cake

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
6 oz. almond pastry filling
½ cup milk
½ Tbsp. almond extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
Yellow food coloring
½ cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
6 Tbsp. amaretto
4 Tbsp. raspberry or apricot jam (I recommend Bonne Maman.)
Fresh berries or fruit for servings

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter 3 9-by-5-inch loaf pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the  eggs and continue to beat on medium-high until combined, then beat in the almond pastry filling, milk and almond extract and milk until combined.
• Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. Evenly divide the batter into 3 medium mixing bowls. Drop enough red food coloring into 1 bowl to achieve the desired color. Repeat with the green and yellow food coloring in the remaining 2 bowls.
• Pour the batters into the 3 loaf pans. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
• Meanwhile, make the ganache by simmering the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, until the edges start to bubble. Remove from heat, add the chocolate and cover. Let sit 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk gently until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
• Place the red cake on the serving platter. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons amaretto, then spread 2 tablespoons jam on top in an even layer. Stack the yellow cake on top, drizzle with another 2 tablespoons amaretto and spread the remaining 2 tablespoons jam on top in an even layer. Add the final green layer, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons amaretto, then cover the cake tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 20 minutes.
• Unwrap the cake and pour the ganache over the top, spreading it evenly down the sides with a small spatula, until the cake is completely covered. Refrigerate 1 hour to set, then slice and serve with fresh fruit.

 

 

Baked: Grown-Up Cosmic Brownies

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

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I’m always on the hunt for the chewiest brownies, and conveniently, I came upon a jar of marshmallow fluff in my pantry. What would happen, I wondered, if you fold marshmallow fluff into brownie batter? As it turns out, wonderful things. The marshmallow keeps the brownies wonderfully chewy and springy throughout, while letting the chocolate flavor shine through. The brownie doesn’t have a hint of marshmallows in it, but it lends an undeniably delicious mouth feel.

I decorated the tops Cosmic Brownie-style, covering the tops with a thick layer of ganache and sprinkling elegant chocolate candies over the top. These brownies are decadently rich, so cutting them into bite-sized pieces is ideal. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Grown-Up Cosmic Brownies
Adapted from a Daphne Brogdon recipe 
16 servings

½ cup (1 stick) plus 1 Tbsp. butter, divided
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream. divided
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 heaping cup marshmallow fluff
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
4½ oz. chocolate chips (any variety)
½ tsp. coarse sea salt
Chocolate or colorful candies for sprinkling

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Line an 8-by-8-inch cake pan with parchment paper.
• In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt ½ cup butter and 2 tablespoons cream. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate until melted and combined.
• Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat together the marshmallow fluff and sugar. Add the vanilla extract and beat in the eggs one at a time.
• Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder and kosher salt until just combined and there are no streaks of flour left in the pot.
• Pour the batter into the pan and bake 30 minutes, until the edges start to pull away from the pan. Let cool to room temperature.
• Meanwhile, make the ganache by melting the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and ½ cup heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the chocolate chips and cover without stirring. Let rest 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk to combine, adding the sea salt. Let cool to room temperature.
• Pour the ganache over the brownies, spreading it into an even layer. Sprinkle the top with chocolate candies, then refrigerate or freeze until hard.
• Slice into bite-sized 2-inch squares and serve at room temperature or chilled.

 

 

Baked: Caramel Espresso Flan Cake

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

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I love to bake something special for my birthday. It’s time for me to celebrate with something over the top, something I’ve hidden away to try but always put off due to time constraints. This caramel espresso flan cake was perfect for this year’s birthday treat.

It’s an espresso flan on top with a light buttery sponge cake on the bottom – both baked at the same time. The flan is added first, and when the sponge cake batter is spread over the top, it’s so light that it floats above the flan. When it’s baked, it leaves a magical hybrid layer in the middle.

As if that weren’t enough, a hidden caramel layer is spread along the bottom during baking. When the cake is flipped and served, the caramel slowly seeps past the flan and into the sponge cake over time. Indeed, the cake is better a day or two after it is made, but it’s well worth the wait.

This beautiful dessert is a showstopper, and the combination of caramel and espresso is addictive. The flan is smooth and soft, as an egg custard should be, while the cake is spongy and delicate. You won’t regret the time and effort put into this one. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Caramel Espresso Flan Cake
Adapted from a recipe at Lady and Pups
8 servings

1 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. water
1½ cups half and half
2 Tbsp. espresso powder
Pinch of cinnamon
6 egg yolks, divided
2 eggs
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
4½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. flour
¼ cup whole milk
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg whites

• Pour 1 inch water in a baking dish large enough to hold a 9-inch cake pan and place it in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch round cake pan and set aside.
• In a large saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium heat without stirring. Cook until the sugar turns light brown, about 8 minutes, then remove from heat and swirl the pan gently until the caramel turns deep amber, 10 to 15 seconds.
• Set aside 2 to 3 tablespoons caramel and pour the remainder in the cake pan. Rotate the pan to evenly distribute the caramel on the bottom.
• Let the saucepan cool but do not wash it. Add the half and half, espresso powder and cinnamon and return the pot to the stove over medium heat. Bring to a bare simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon until the espresso powder is completely dissolved in the half and half, 5 to 8 minutes.
• In a mixing bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks, 2 eggs and the condensed milk together. Using a hand mixer, carefully pour the hot espresso cream into the egg mixture, beating on low to medium-low speed until combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan.
• Cut a long, 3-inch wide strip of parchment paper and lightly grease both sides. Line the top half of the cake pan above the flan layer with the parchment paper to prevent the cake layer from sticking (the flan will easily release from the pan).
• In a clean large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until it begins to bubble. Add the flour, whisk quickly until incorporated and remove from heat. Whisk in the milk and the brown sugar until the sugar melts. Let cool slightly, 2 to 4 minutes.
• Whisk in the remaining 2 egg yolks and the vanilla extract until the cake batter is thick and even. Set aside.
• In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on high speed to beat the egg whites to soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Add half the egg whites to the cake batter in the saucepan and whisk gently until combined. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
• Carefully pour the cake batter over the flan layer. It will appear to sink to the bottom, but it will rise back up since the batter is lighter than the custard. Smooth the top.
• Place the pan in the middle of the water-filled baking dish, return it to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 340 degrees. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out completely clean.
• Let the cake cool 30 minutes. Gently remove the parchment paper and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the flan. Place a large plate on top of the cake pan and quickly invert to remove it from the pan. (If any caramel sticks to the bottom of the cake pan, warm on the stove over low heat until it’s loose and pour it over the cake.) Warm and drizzle the reserved caramel over the top as well.
• Refrigerate uncovered 1 to 2 days for the cake to absorb the caramel. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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