• Sweet D’s First Birthday Baby Princess Cakes

    HELLO ALL!! As you can tell from the title of this recipe, I am very excited to say that it’s Sweet D’s first birthday!!! My goodness how time flies when you get to do what you love! I won’t do some long, sappy post here since I did that ~fairly~ recently with my 50th recipe post, but if you’re feeling it, you can read that here. What I will say is thanks for sticking around a whole year, and here’s to many more years ahead!

    Now it’s only fair to have a cake recipe for a birthday, no matter whose it is, and these cakes are so very important. A traditional princess cake is a full-sized cake rather than a set of mini ones, but following this recipe from Molly Yeh, these little babies just bring so much joy. They’re also very customizable, as the jam filling can be anything you feel like, the marzipan can be dyed any color of the rainbow, and your decorations can be as high or low maintenance as you please. Plus they look VERY impressive and almost too pretty to eat- the key word being almost, because not eating these would be a tragedy. Word to the wise, when the directions tell you to put the cakes covered in whipped cream in the freezer to set before covering, actually do it. It makes them soooo much easier and neater to cover with marzipan, and it will save you many a headache and ripped marzipan. Other than that, you’re ready to go!!

    But first, here are five things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Keeping fresh flowers by your bed, fresh herbs in the kitchen
    TWO. The smell of a coffee can opening
    THREE. Comfortable, stretchy clothes
    FOUR. Large colonial fireplaces
    FIVE. The soft splat of snow falling
    Let’s get birthday baking!!

    Makes: 24 Princess Cakes
    Prep/ Decoration Time: 2 hours
    Bake Time: 18-20 minutes

    Almond Cake Ingredients

    1¼ cups all-purpose flour
    ¾ cup almond flour
    ½ tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    ¼ tsp baking soda
    ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    ½ cup buttermilk

    Almond Cake Steps

    ONE. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the all purpose and almond flours, salt, and baking powder + soda.

    TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. Alternating between the two, add a third of the flour mixture, then a third of the buttermilk, until all is just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool fully in the pan, then cut into 20 2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter.

    Assembly Ingredients

    1 cup heavy cream
    ½ cup powdered sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    ¼ tsp almond extract
    1 jar store bought raspberry jam (or whatever jam you feel like!)
    24 oz. marzipan
    Assorted food coloring

    Assembly Steps

    ONE.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and extracts until stiff peaks form. Spread each cake circle with a layer of jam, then, using a piping bag, pipe a small, uniform mound of whipped cream on top in a swirl. Once all the cake circles are topped with jam and whipped cream, pop the tray in the freezer to set while you prep the marzipan.

    TWO. Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar, and knead your desired food coloring into the marzipan to change its color. Set aside a small portion to use for decorations, such as rose buds, hearts, or polka dots. Roll the marzipan out into a 1/8″ layer, and cut out circles large enough to cover the cakes entirely without ripping. I ended up using a 3½” cookie cutter here and it worked out perfectly! This may take some trial and error depending on the size of your cakes, but you can always re-roll the marzipan if you make a mistake!

    THREE. Cover each cake with a marzipan circle and trim off any excess from the bottom, re-rolling the scraps. For decoration, create small, flat strips and roll them into rosebuds and add petals, or use mini cookie cutters or the tops of piping tips to cut out hearts and circles to affix to the top.

    Now bask in how cute these look and throw a tea party somewhere!! xoxoxoxoxoD

  • Coconut Paris Brest

    Hello and happy Tuesday my blossoms! Today’s recipe sounds super fancy because it IS, but it’s also not super hard to make, which in my book is always a plus. What is a Paris Brest you ask? Aside from something that made all my siblings laugh every time I said it, a Paris Brest is a ring of choux pastry, the kind you would have in an eclair or a cream puff, cut in half and typically filled with praline cream and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. When I served this to my family the other day, my Grandpa, being the world traveler that he is, wondered if this pastry got its name by being served on the train between the cities of Paris and Brest in France. Turns out he’s not that far off, because when I searched for the origin of this dessert, I found that it was commissioned by Pierre Giffard, a French journalist, to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest and then back to Paris. Who knew?

    So, recently, I came across this recipe from Zoe Bakes for a Raspberry Paris Brest and I was immediately interested. However, I had been using too much raspberry in my baking recently, so I decided that I would take the basic idea for this pastry and try something different. We had a lot of shredded coconut leftover from the holidays so suddenly it hit me: a Coconut pastry cream filled Paris Brest complete with toasted coconut. And wow was I happy I tried this because it is a DREAM. The pastry cream is made with cans of coconut milk rather than whole milk, which provided a delicate coconut flavor amplified by the toasted flakes that I sprinkled on top. While this is best consumed the same day that it’s been assembled, that won’t stop me from eating this until there is not a scrap left. Also a note, the dough recipe below will leave you with a lot leftover if you’re simply piping the three rings for your pate a choux. I got nervous and underestimated how much it would grow while baking, so I added more piped rings until I had used all the batter, and it produced a truly enormous ring. Like bigger than my head, could have maybe used it as a hoola hoop. This was not a problem for me because I have a big family and I love baked goods, but if you fear it will be too much, only pipe the original three rings and save the rest of the dough for some eclairs or even a second Paris Brest with a different flavor combo!

     

    Now that that’s settled, here are 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. The smell of fresh coffee and bacon waking you up on a Saturday morning.
    TWO. Getting an unexpected letter or message from someone you love.
    THREE. Grilled cheese and tomato soup.
    FOUR. Trying something new at a restaurant and discovering you love it.
    FIVE. When winter days start getting longer and the sun stays up past 5pm.

    Happy? Good. Let’s bake!

    Makes: 1 12-inch choux ring, or 1 8-inch ring with leftover dough
    Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Bake Time: 50 minutes

    Pâte à Choux Ingredients

    ½ cup whole milk
    ½ cup water
    1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut small
    1 Tbs white sugar
    ½ tsp salt
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    4 large eggs, room temperature
    Egg wash; 1 egg + 1 Tbs water
    ¼ cup slivered almonds

    Pâte à Choux Steps

    ONE. To start, set up a large sheet pan with parchment paper, and trace an 8-inch circle on the opposite side of the paper. Flip the paper back over so that you can see the traced circle but no pencil lead will get on the pastry.

    TWO. In a large saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a rapid simmer (not before!), add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture on low heat, stirring until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 4-5 minutes.

    THREE. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and begin mixing. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough becomes smooth and sticky, and not too stiff so that the mixture can be piped and will rise nicely.

    FOUR. Set up a piping bag with a large round tip, then fill the bag with your dough. Pipe an even circle around the outside of the traced circle on your parchment paper, then pipe a second circle inside of the first. Pipe a third circle on top of the first two circles, in the seam between the two. Now, because I had so much dough left, I then added a third ring to the bottom layer, then a second to the middle, and one on the very top, but be warned, this makes a very wide Paris Brest (not that that’s a bad thing AT ALL). If you have a lot of dough left over but don’t want to make an enormous pastry, you could always make some eclairs as well! Just pipe the remaining batter into logs and bake.

    FIVE. Paint the ring of choux dough with egg wash, and sprinkle the almonds evenly on top. Bake the dough at 375ºF for 30 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 350ºF ad bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the top is evenly golden. Turn the oven off and allow the pastry to cool there for one hour.


    Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients

    4 cups canned coconut milk (I used Goya)
    1 cup white sugar, divided
    4 Tbs unsalted butter
    ½ tsp salt
    2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or 1 whole vanilla bean, deseeded
    6 Tbs cornstarch
    2 eggs
    6 egg yolks

    Coconut Pastry Cream Steps

    ONE. Bring the coconut milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla to a light boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium. Remove from heat.

    TWO. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch to get rid of any lumps. Add the eggs and egg yolks to this bowl and whisk until smooth and combined.

    THREE. Carefully and slowly drizzle some of the hot coconut milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs but not cook them. When the eggs are warm to the touch, pour them back into the saucepan with the milk and return to a boil. Stirring constantly, the mixture will get thick pretty quickly, but continue to cook for 2-3 minutes so that the custard will set and won’t separate.

    FOUR. Strain the pastry cream through a sieve into a large bowl to catch any stray cooked egg, then press a sheet of plastic wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes to cool the eggs, then keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.


    Assembly Extras

    ½ cup coconut, toasted at 325ºF until golden
    Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

    Assembly Steps

    ONE. Using a flexible bread knife, slice the pastry ring in half long ways. Fit a piping bag with a large round tip and fill with the pastry cream. Pipe a generous layer of cream inside the bottom ring, then top with a generous sprinkling of toasted coconut. Repeat with another layer of pastry cream and coconut, then place the top ring back on top. Generously dust with the confectioners sugar and TADA!! Serve in slices and tell everyone you went to culinary school in Paris.

     

     

    YAY!! xoxoxoxoxD

  • Instant Pot Short Rib Lasagna

    WELCOME! As you can probably tell by the title of this recipe, I recently came into the possession of an Instant Pot and boy do I have a lot to say about it. First off, I got my Instant Pot for $30 (THIRTY. DOLLARS!!!) because I got a bunch of Amazon gift cards for Christmas and this seemed like as good a purchase as any, right? Watching it deduct $75 from the list price made me feel like one of those extreme couponers and I finally GET IT. My first adventure was this chicken tortilla soup and after working out some of the kinks it turned out delicious, so I was feeling confident. I then came across this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis and thought, I can adapt this to my Instant Pot no problem!!

    Well, as I’m sure you can guess, it was in fact a problem. But, the magic of this blog is that I work this out so that you don’t have to! Turns out, Instant Pots do NOT like flour, and if you add even the tiniest bit of flour to your sauce, it will sink to the bottom, burn, and tell you repeatedly that the whole thing is burning four to five times until you take everything out, scrub the inner pot, and the start over. Yeah. So, I did this several times and had several full on tantrums before it worked. I still get mad at myself very easily when cooking things don’t work out the first time I try them, which I know is a bad habit and one I am certainly trying to kick, but this was truly testing me.

    Now, another note about Instant Pots is that while yes, they definitely cut down the cooking time on things like stews and short ribs that would otherwise take several hours, you have to factor in the time that the pot takes to come to its set temperature and pressure, which, according to the manual, can take anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes depending on the volume and starting temperature of the food inside it. So, if your ribs need to cook for an hour and 10 minutes total, remember to add in an average 30 minutes or so because the hour and 10 minutes doesn’t start until it’s come to full pressure. After several false starts, my short ribs had almost come to a full, high pressure cooking situation several times, and as a result, I ended up lowering my overall cooking time to take that into account. However, according to the chart that came with my pot, beef ribs should be cooked for about 20-25 minutes per pound, so you can use that factor accordingly.

    This is what it should look like, if you don’t burn yours several times before starting like I did!

    In the end, this worked out and the lasagna was to DIE for, but I for sure gave myself a baptism by fire here. I feel as though my Instant Pot and I are destined to be enemies, but like ones that have some playful banter going, you know? I look forward to getting to know the ins and outs of this thing, and seeing how many day-long recipes I can turn into quicker projects. This recipe can also be started on a stovetop instead of the Instant Pot, and I’ve included those directions at the bottom as well.

    Anyways, enough ranting, here are 5 things to be happy about today before we get to cooking:
    ONE. When it’s been a week since New Year’s and you’re still following some resolutions.

    TWO. An afternoon iced coffee to give you that energy kick you need.

    THREE. Waking up to rain on a Saturday morning with nothing to do but stay in bed and catch up on TV.

    FOUR. When you hear your grandparents talk about things they used to do growing up.

    FIVE. Aquariums.

    Ingredients

    2 Tbs olive oil
    4 oz. diced pancetta
    3½-4 lbs. bone-in short ribs
    Kosher salt, to taste
    2 medium onions
    2 carrots, peeled and diced
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    2 Tbs tomato paste
    1 cup dry red wine
    1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
    2 cups beef broth
    2 sprigs rosemary
    4 sprigs thyme
    2 bay leaves
    2½ cups jarred pasta sauce (or your own if you feel like it!)
    2 boxes no-boil lasagna noodles (12-15 noodles total)
    3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
    2 cups parmesan cheese

    Steps (stovetop directions at bottom)

    ONE. Turn your Instant Pot to Sauté, then add the olive oil. When the olive oil is heated, add the pancetta and cook until crisp and rendered. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. In the pot with the rendered fat and olive oil, sear your short ribs for roughly 4 minutes, meat side down, turning if necessary so all sides are cooked. Do this in batches if you need to! Transfer cooked ribs to a bowl and set aside.

    TWO. Add all chopped vegetables to the pan and allow to sweat, scraping the brown bits from the bottom as you go. I learned this the hard way, the scraping of the Instant Pot is NECESSARY, otherwise you will continue to get an annoying “burn” message. Add kosher salt here (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) and cook until the veggies are translucent and soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.

    THREE. Add the red wine, crushed tomatoes, broth, and tomato paste, then add the seared short ribs and pancetta, layering so that no tomato paste will burn to the bottom of the pot. Make sure that the meat is entirely covered by the liquid, but that the liquid is not going over the 2/3 limit of your pot! Tie together the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves with twine and toss in on top.

    Processed with VSCO with al1 preset

    FOUR. Securely close the top of your Instant Pot and set to the “Meat/Stew” setting, on Normal, and adjust the cooking time based on the amount of meat you’re cooking with. According to the Instant Pot cooking chart, it should be about 20-25 minutes per pound of beef ribs, so mine cooked overall for 1 hour and 10 minutes (if you count how many times it came up to temperature and then claimed it was burning lol).

    FIVE. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Once the meat is finished cooking, remove bones and herb bundle and shred the meat, placing it in a large bowl. Add 3 cups of the tomato cooking liquid to the meat and mix. Feel free to save the remaining sauce for pasta, however I would let it chill and then skim some of the fat off once it hardens. To assemble the lasagna, spread a thin layer of jarred tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Add a layer of 4 to 5 lasagna noodles, breaking them and arranging them as necessary to fit. Spread half the meat mixture over the first layer of noodles, then top with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and ½ cup of parmesan. Add another layer of noodles, the rest of the meat, and then another cup of mozzarella plus ½ cup parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles, 2 cups of jarred tomato sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella, and the rest of the parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving.

    *For the stovetop, simply complete steps one through three in a dutch oven or other large pot, then cook for 3 hours, uncovered for the last hour, before continuing with step 5.

    Now bask in the praise of your dinner guests! YUM! xoxoxoxoxoxoD