August 15, 2011

Summer Berry Crostata

Berries scream “summer.”  This season I love throwing their subtle sweetness into otherwise savory dishes like herby grilled chicken, hearty green salads and steamed fish.  But berries are best when they’re showcased in delectable desserts.  Nothing is easier than throwing a few handfuls of berries over a pie dough and popping it into the oven - aka a berry crostata!

August 8, 2011

Double Frosted Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake is a universal love.  Who doesn’t yearn to stick a fork into a large slice of moist, delectable chocolate cake with just the right amount of frosting?  I could eat chocolate cake everyday and still long for more.

I often hesitate to try newly created recipes on my guests, so I thought that I’d play it safe and use a recipe from King Arthur Flour.  KAF’s readers gave it 5 stars, so I knew it would be a crowd pleaser.  Chocolate and espresso are a classic combination, and the picture of the cake on the KAF site looked divine.  Oh yes, I can get weak in the knees over a beautiful photograph of cake.

Alas, my rendition of the KAF cake didn’t really thrill me.  It looked so bare, even with the frosting.  KAF calls for a chocolate ganache -- a simple icing made from chocolate and cream that’s poured over the cake and allowed to drip down the sides.  It’s quite delicious, but it looks more like a glaze than a traditional frosting.  I suppose that I could have whipped it before pouring it over the cake.  Too late!  So what’s a girl to do when faced with a totally boring cake?  Frost it again!  With a different, but complementary, frosting!  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

I decided to throw together a quick salted Kahlua buttercream frosting -- with more chocolate, of course.  Now the cake finally had all of my favorite notes: Kahlua, chocolate, espresso, sugar and salt.  Yum!  (Admit it, they’re your favorite flavors, too.  And if you really love Kahlua be sure to check out my post about Kahlua Blondies!)  The contrast of two frostings was so delicious that I think that I’ll do double frostings on almost all of my cakes from now on.  A happy (and delectable) accident indeed!

The cake recipe is available via King Arthur Flour.  I followed the full recipe, including the frosting/ganache.  After chilling in the refrigerator, I frosted it again with a buttercream frosting (below).  In the buttercream frosting you can easily adjust the ratio of confectioners' sugar to butter to achieve your desired consistency and sweetness.  The Kahlua could also be substituted for any liquor or extract of your desire: vanilla extract would be a good choice; and if you’re feeling wild how about Frangelico or Chambord!

Easy Salted Kahlua Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough to frost the outside of a layer cake.  Double recipe to use as filling between layers.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
½ cup cocoa powder
1 Tbs Kahula
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ Tbs flaked sea salt
2 to 3 Tbs milk

Beat the butter until creamy.  Add the cocoa, Kahlua and salt; mix until incorporated.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, until desired consistency and sweetness is achieved.  If the frosting seems too thick, add a tablespoon of milk (or two or three) to thin it a bit.  Too thin?  Add more confectioners’ sugar, one tablespoon at a time.  Frost your cake, grab a fork and dig in!

August 1, 2011

Shrimp Scampi - Baked!

Shrimp feels so summery to me.  Shrimp salad, grilled shrimp, steamed shrimp and… baked shrimp?  I know what you’re thinking.  Why would anyone willingly use the oven on a hot summer’s night?  Sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do.  When time is short, I love to throw shrimp in the oven to roast while I take care of household chores.

The Barefoot Contessa never disappoints, and I was delighted to try her version of baked shrimp scampi.  The garlic is sufficiently pungent and noticeable.  The panko topping adds a nice contrast to the texture of the shrimp, and helps to soak up the delicious, oozing butter.  A delicious meal in summertime or anytime!

Baked Shrimp Scampi

2 pounds (medium to large) shrimp, peel, deveined, butterflied* and tails on
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the shrimp in a large bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside while you make the butter and garlic topping.

In a small bowl, combine the butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper until thoroughly combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish.  Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp.  Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Then place under a broiler for 1 minute to brown the panko.  Garnish with lemon wedges, serve with risotto and dig in!

*To butterfly shrimp, slice the shrimp almost in half, along the line of the cavity that remains after you remove the vein.  Don't slice all the way through the shrimp; leave enough intact to open the shrimp like the wings of a butterfly.
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