Thursday, September 24, 2020

It's Jalapeño Popper Time!

One thing I can always count on to be going strong in my late summer garden is my crop of peppers – particularly my jalapeño peppers.  After making all manner of salsas and toppings for tortillas and tacos, I’m making some proper poppers today, stuffing jalapeño halves with a cream cheese mixture and topping with buttered panko bread crumbs.   

I have plenty of jalapeño plants in my garden, a lot of them volunteers from last year, so I generally know what I’m getting taste- and heat-wise.  However, if you’re buying them from the market, particularly if they’re out of season, sometimes the flavor might be there but the heat isn’t.  If I’m using jalapeños, I want the heat, so I look for white striations on the peppers, running the length of the pepper.  These “stretch” marks are indicative of the amount of stress the pepper has undergone which has a direct impact on the heat of the pepper.  Generally, the older the pepper, the more stress it’s endured, the more striations you’ll see, and the hotter the pepper will be.  A red jalapeño, being a more mature pepper, will generally be hotter than a green one, although it will be sweeter. 

Rosie’s Jalapeño Poppers
About 12 jalapeños

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 heaping TB grated mozzarella
2 heaping TB grated cheddar
4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
2 TB finely chopped red onion
2 TB chopped chives

Slice jalapeños in half lengthwise and scrape out white ribs. Capsaisin, the chemical compound in jalapeños which contains the heat, is concentrated in the ribs of the peppers, so you can control some of the heat by removing this part and the attached seeds.

Place on baking sheet.
Combine rest of ingredients until well-mixed. Spoon into halves.
Sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs, pressing into cheese mixture, and top with a thin pat of butter.
Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown.

Now, for some step-by-steps:

Mix the stuffing together.  If you want more of something, then add it.  (Like BACON!)

Slice jalapeños in half, scraping out ribs and seeds.


Then, stuff away.

Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top of stuffed peppers.

Then put a pat of butter on top of each one.

Isn't this festive?!

Bake until golden brown.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Rosie Makes Mr. Hawthorne A Birthday Cake. It's Pound/Lemon/Pistachio. And Caramel!

Mr. Hawthorne's birthday was not too long ago and throughout the years, I've made all manner of cakes for this auspicious occasion.  I've done cheesecakes, tiramisus, dense and intense chocolate cakes, coconut pecan cakes, boozy, rum-saturated cakes - you name it, I've done it.  I thought I'd try something a little different this year.  I wanted something like a pound cake but in a bundt pan.  And I had pistachios.  And lemons. And a homemade vanilla pudding mixture still in the fridge leftover from that rum cake. So there's my start.

First, I liberally buttered and pistachio-ed my bundt pan.

Here are all my ingredients.

Rosie's Pistachio and Lemon Bundt Cake
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 oz. homemade vanilla pudding mix  (Recipe below.)
6 eggs, room temperature
3 cups sifted cake flour
zest of 2 lemons
Caramel glaze  (Recipe below.)

Heat oven to 325°.
Cream butter and cream cheese on medium high speed until nice and ... creamy.
Slowly beat in sugar and dry pudding mix.
Continue beating mixture for about 7 minutes.  Don't skimp on the whip time here.  Because the eggs are the only leavening ingredients (no baking soda or powder), you want to whip plenty of air into the cake during the creaming process so you'll get the lift you want during baking.
Reduce speed to medium low and beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.
Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour, about a cup at a time, until just incorporated.  Do not overbeat.
Stir in lemon zest.
Pour batter into prepared bundt pan, smoothing top.
Bake for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack and let cool completely.

When cool, take a skewer or chopstick and punch holes through top of cake.
Drizzle caramel glaze over top and sides of cake, letting the glaze go into the holes. This way, you'll have nice little tunnels of caramel channeling through the cake.

Vanilla Pudding Mix
3/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 whole vanilla beans
Combine dry milk, cornstarch, sugar, and salt.  Slice down the length of the vanilla beans and scrape out seeds, adding them to the dry ingredients.  Whisk until evenly distributed.  Don't throw out the scraped beans.  Slice into thirds and throw them into the mixture as well.  Pour mixture into a zip-lock plastic bag and keep in refrigerator.  The mixture keeps well in the fridge.  If you ever use additional vanilla bean seeds, save the beans and throw them into the mix as well.  (One can never have too much vanilla.)

Now, if you want to make pudding - combine 1 1/4 cups of the mix with 2 cups of milk in a medium saucepan over medium high heat, whisking constantly.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and continue whisking until mixture thickens and coats spoon.  (About 5 minutes.)  Pour into a container and let set for 10 minutes before serving, or refrigerate.

Caramel Glaze
4 TB unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
In small sauce pan, melt butter.  Stir in brown sugar and salt and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring, until dissolved.  Add heavy cream, bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes.  Let cool.

Pour batter into bundt pan and...

...smooth it out.

Bake 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in pan 10-15 minutes.
Then invert onto a rack.

Let cool completely.

For the caramel:
Melt butter and add brown sugar.
Cook for a minute or so.
Add in cream ...
...and bring to boil.

Cook about 2 minutes until thickened.
Let cool.
Pour caramel over cake.
Halfway through pouring, I decided to punch holes into the cake with a skewer.
Note to self:  Self, next time poke more holes to hold the caramel.

It's a partay!

Ohhh,  this is goooooood.
Texture is perfect.
Flavor is lemony.
Pistachios and caramel make it even better.