Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Daring Bakers! Pão de Queijo

I am a college graduate now. I can no longer call this a blog about messing around in a dorm kitchen, because in a few days I'll be moving into an apartment with my own kitchen. College was wonderful, and helped me to discover what kind of person I am, and who I want to be. That process doesn't ever stop, but these four years have been some of the most formative of my life. 

That would be me.
I don't really do goodbyes, and I'm trying not to be sad. The people that matter most in my life will stay in my life. Yes, I'll miss not being able to walk next door or down the street just to stop by and say hello to my friends. That will be hard. And no matter how many times I return to campus, nothing will ever be the same as when I was a student. But that can't be a cause for sorrow. It's time to keep moving forward. And I'll be able to have experiences I never did in school. Dinner parties and movie nights in my apartment, concerts and farmer's markets...

I promise I will keep you updated on my life. The blog is not going to stop. Now on to business...Pão de Queijo. I love saying this. It basically means cheese bread in Portuguese, and is enjoyed in Brazil. I've actually had something like it before, from a mix my sister bought. These are gluten free, crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. The secret is tapioca flour, which is actually pretty cheap. Check out the Asian food aisles of your grocery store for a bag that looks like this. Try them out if you please.

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of "Testado, Provado & Aprovado!" taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

Pão de Queijo

250 gm (2 cups) tapioca starch (If you have access to sour tapioca, you can use 250gm (2 cups) of each)
1/2 cup (125 ml) whole milk
1.5 tablespoons (20 gm) butter
1/2 teaspoon  salt (or to taste depending on how salty your cheese is)
1 1/2 cups (125gm) Monterey Jack Cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella and parmesan), coarsely grated
2 large eggs

Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as it may boil over. Remove from heat and set aside.
Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl.
Pour the boiled (hot) mixture over the tapioca and start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough yet. You will have a lumpy mixture, that's what it is supposed to be.
Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.
At this point, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gs mark 6
Add the grated cheese to the tapioca mixture and mix well, now using your hands.
Add one egg at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together. I suggest you lightly beat the egg with a fork and add little bits until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. You only have to knead it a bit, not as much as you knead a yeasted bread. It's OK if it is slightly sticky.
Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat or lightly greased with vegetable oil. If necessary, you can oil your hands to make shaping easier. The size of the balls may vary from small bite-sized balls to the size of ping pong balls. They will puff up quite a bit after baking.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until they just start to brown on the bottom. You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Don't over-bake as they will get hard and bitter.
 Serve hot or warm. If you don't want to eat them all immediately, form the rest of the dough into balls and freeze it. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

Blogging when I should be working on my final papers. And blogging something that's probably considered autumnal for that matter. Breakin' alllll the rules. I get the apple thing, apple season is September/October. But I have no idea why cinnamon is considered a fall flavor. Is the growing season for cinnamon in the fall? Whatever. These are the great mysteries of my life (just kidding. Kind of). 

Pretty flowers from a friend !

I have not started freaking out about the fact that I'm graduating. Maybe I will when it's actually happening, but I've never been the kind of person to publicly flip out over big events. Appreciate the moment. There will be plenty of time for the future when the future is the present. And yes, many things will be new, but the most important friends and family will be by your side to make everything less scary. And maybe that's why I'm not afraid. 

These little cupcakes are plain and unassuming looking, but they have a lovely cinnamon and nutmeg flavor, and the texture of something like banana bread (perhaps due to the applesauce, which you can't taste at all). Top them off with cream cheese frosting (the PERFECT amount for this number of cupcakes, which was awesome!) and you've got something that will pretty much please anyone.

Enjoy the rest of today. You'll never get it back! 

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes + Cream Cheese Frosting
from Cooking Classy

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 Recipe Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows 

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, whip together butter, granulated sugar and light-brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 - 4 minutes. Add in eggs, mixing after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add in applesauce. Stir in flour mixture and mix just until combined. Divide batter evenly among 20 paper lined muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake in preheated oven, rotating pan once halfway through baking, for about 19 - 20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. Store cupcakes in an airtight container.

 Cream Cheese Frosting
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer whip ingredients together until smooth and fluffy about 1 - 2 minutes.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Earl Grey + Poppyseed Muffins

Hellohello, happy Cinco de Mayo! Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day. It's the day of the Battle of Puebla, an unlikely victory for the Mexicans over the French army, which was considered the best army in the world at that time. Now you know, right? 

I've expressed this about St. Patrick's Day, but I often find it a little weird when people just adopt holidays for the sake of celebrating, without having any connection to the culture or notion of what it's about. It's different when you're making a concerted effort not to just engage in negative cultural appropriation. I'm all for becoming a more enlightened global citizen! 

So instead of being like this, I decided to make Earl Grey and poppyseed muffins this May 5th. I'm not a huge fan of drinking Earl Grey, but I really enjoy baking with it. It imparts a really nice, citrusy/floral fragrance to cakes and cookies and the like. Enjoy these not too sweet muffins with a glazing of marmalade. 

Earl Grey + Poppyseed Muffins
adapted slightly from raspberri cupcakes

3 Earl Grey Tea bags (or about 3 tsp loose tea leaves)
1 cup milk
1 stick butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp + 3/4 tsp baking powder 
3/4 tsp salt 
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds

2 eggs, lightly whisked
To glaze or serve: marmalade or apricot jam

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a 12-hole muffin/cupcake tin with liners or folded squares of baking paper. Warm the milk and butter until it is nearly boiling in a small saucepan, then add tea bags set aside to infuse and cool. Place flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and poppy seeds in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add milk mixture, butter and eggs and use a whisk to gently combine until smooth. Spoon mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 20ish minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Try your best not to over-bake them as it will dry them out. Glaze with marmalade if you so desire.