Friday, April 8, 2011

April Cupcake of the Month: Margarita Cupcakes (Gluten Free)

I made these for a friend for her birthday.  They turned out so cute!  She has a sensitivity to gluten, so I made them using gluten-free all-purpose flour from Raley’s (made by Bob’s Red Mill, in the Health Food Dept.).  I was anxious to see how they would turn out, as gluten-free baked products are often dense and heavy.

To help keep the cakes light and airy, I separated the eggs.  I added the yolks to the creamed butter and sugar, and the whites I whipped up like meringue and folded them in gently at the end.  This technique also works really well with pancakes and waffles, to help keep them light and fluffy. 

I made a few mini cupcakes for my friend to put in her freezer. 
She can thaw one in no time when she has a sweet craving!

The recipe I based these on called for a lime glaze sprinkled with coarse sugar or salt to replicate the margarita glass, but in my humble opinion that wasn’t going to be anywhere near enough frosting, so I decided to make a lime cream cheese frosting instead.  By the way, the Tequila in the cake recipe can be replaced with lime juice if you prefer.

These boxes and cupcake liners I bought at Williams-Sonoma.  Aren’t they adorable?  I Just couldn’t resist them!  The box I used holds four cupcakes, but they also have small boxes that just hold one cake.  They are available online and in the store and come in a pink toile design also.

There is even an insert to hold the cupcakes in place
Here’s the recipe:

Margarita Cupcakes
Makes about 18 cupcakes

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt, plus pinch for the egg whites
½ cup/1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon finely grated lime rind
2 tablespoons tequila

  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add lime rind and tequila.  Gradually stir in dry ingredients until all of the flour is absorbed and the batter is smooth.
  4. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry.  Gently fold whites into batter.
  5. Fill cupcake papers a little over half full.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool.

Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

6 Tbsp butter, room temperature
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tsp lime zest
2-3 teaspoon lime juice
1 tsp tequila (optional)
Green sanding sugar or edible glitter (optional)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together until they are light and fluffy.  Slowly add sugar a little at a time, and remaining ingredients.  Beat well until smooth.  Frost cupcakes as desired and sprinkle with sanding sugar or edible glitter.

 A little finely grated lime zest will work as a decoration
if you don't have sanding sugar or glitter

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tools, Tips, and Techniques: Crystallized Honey

Have you ever taken your honey out of the cupboard only to find it has crystallized into a solid block?  Take off the lid and pop it in the microwave for a few seconds on high and it will turn liquid again. 

How many seconds will depend on how much honey is in the container and the power of your microwave.  Start with ten seconds, give it a little shake and continue with ten second increments until enough has turned liquid for your use.  The honey will eventually crystallize again, but you can just repeat the procedure next time you need it.  Even if the honey hasn't crystallized, I often do this when I just need a tablespoon or two for a recipe.  It is much easier to pour out of the jar when it is warm. 

Tools, Tips, and Techniques: Home-Made Breadcrumbs

Don’t throw away those last couple of pieces of stale bread.  Tear them up a little and throw them in the food processor.  Process as coarse or fine as you like and freeze them in a zip-loc bag or freezer container.  Label with the date and the kind of bread (the kind of bread is only really important if it’s flavored such as potato rosemary or garlic). 

Use these whenever a recipe calls for breadcrumbs – so much better than the dried, store-bought variety.  The great thing about frozen breadcrumbs is that they never freeze very solid.  It’s easy to crumble off how many you need and then put the rest back in the freezer.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Recipe Review: Butternut Squash Lasagna

I love butternut squash, but you can only have so much of it roasted or made into soup.  So my search led me to a recipe for butternut squash lasagna.  I don’t tend to make lasagna very often for two reasons.  Firstly it’s somewhat time-consuming, and secondly, it doesn’t tend to be exactly ‘lite.’ 

So this vegetarian version from Cooking Light Magazine appealed to me as it was definitely lighter than the traditional, but possibly just as time-consuming!  On the plus side, this recipe makes two 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pans – one for now and one to freeze for later.    

There are basically five components to the recipe:

  • Butternut squash - the recipe says to dice and microwave, but I roasted it in the oven as the browning or caramelization provides more flavor.  Just toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread on a cookie sheet.  Roast for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees F, or until tender and starting to brown.  The time will vary according to the size of your squash.  The recipe doesn’t say what size to dice them, so it’s up to you.  I cut mine fairly small – probably about ½”.

  • Spinach – fresh spinach is sautéed with onions until it wilts.  The recipe calls for 10 cups so I bought one of those big boxes of baby spinach from Costco.  I decided this is actually easier than using the frozen spinach, and so much tastier.  The frozen has to be thawed, squeezed out, etc.  The baby spinach can just be thrown in the pan and that’s it.
  • Cheese mixture.  This consists of two types of ricotta – part-skim and fat free – eggs, fresh parsley, provolone cheese, salt and pepper.  I added some freshly grated nutmeg also – a classic Italian addition for spinach and ricotta. 

  • Lasagna noodles – buy the kind that don’t require pre-cooking. 
  • Marinara sauce – this is made from scratch – well not actually from scratch.  Fresh herbs are added to cans of crushed tomatoes.  This can be done a day or two ahead.  Use store-bought marinara if you prefer and to save time.  Look for the kind that says ‘fire-roasted’ to get that nice smoky flavor.

The assembly is pretty straight forward – just make sure you have all the components ready to go.  The recipe called for two 8 x 8 pans, but I used two 9 x 9.  I also used more lasagna noodles than the recipe stated – not sure whether this was because of the size of pan or the size of the noodles.  Mine were from Trader Joe’s and I used about 20 instead of 12.  One of the pans went in the oven for dinner, and the other is in the freezer uncooked. 

Make sure you include the cooking instructions with the one in the freezer.  That way you won’t be scrambling around trying to remember where to find the recipe.  Write the thawing and cooking instructions on a piece of paper and insert between layers of plastic wrap.  Include where to find the recipe in case you really like it and want to make it again!

I have to say the lasagna was delicious and very figure-friendly.  One serving is a sixth of the recipe (a hearty portion) and only has 254 calories, 8.5 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber.  Only 7 points for those of you doing WeightWatchers.  Very good heated up as leftovers the next day also.

I give this 4 thumbs up (out of 5), and would definitely make it again.

Here’s the link to the recipe:
Butternut Squash Lasagna