Monday, July 21, 2014

Salmon with Crispy Skin

Salmon is something I never tire of having for dinner, and I could eat it several times a week if it weren't so expensive.  As it is, we usually have salmon once a week, and it's always one of my favorite meals.

Recently, we've been trying to master the crispy skin technique.  It's not that fun scraping all the scales off the skin with the back of a knife, but the reward of that salted, crisp skin that's almost like a salmon potato chip is worth the extra effort.

We've experimented both with cooking the salmon skin-side-down in a searing hot pan, as well as skin-side-up under the broiler.  Although we have had success with the pan method, especially with a few tablespoons of coconut oil in our cast iron pan, the skin sometimes tends to stick to the pan which might be rectified with a better non-stick pan.  But the broiler method has seemed to work the most consistently for us, so that's the recipe that I have included today.

After getting home last night from a three-day weekend away, I have so many photos to share.  Soon...

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Salmon with Crispy Skin

  • 1 1/2 pounds of salmon
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, garlic and smoked paprika

Lay the salmon down on the butcher paper, skin side up.  Use the edge of a chef's knife to scrape the scales in the opposite direction, until the salmon is clean of scales.  Without the scales, the skin will have a silvery diamond pattern.

Rinse the salmon under cool water, then wrap in a clean, dry kitchen towel.  Squeeze gently to remove as much water as possible from the salmon.  The salmon needs to be dry in order for the skin to get crisp.  Cut the salmon into 4 portions (scissors work best for cutting through the skin) and place it skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Rub the skin with a small amount of olive oil (about half a teaspoon per portion) and season both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika.

Place an oven rack directly underneath the broiler and turn the broiler on to high.  Set the pan on the rack.  Broil for 5-7 minutes until the skin is browned and crisp.  Serve immediately.

Yields 4 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lemon and Lime Cream Cupcakes

Over the course of the weekend of my bachelorette party in Vegas, the girls had all sorts of fun surprises planned, one of which was a list of questions that they had secretly asked Jamie to answer for them a few weeks before, and then asked me the same questions to see how well our answers matched up.  As it turned out, most of our answers were so similar, that the girls were convinced he had shown me the list.  But he most definitely had not!

Two of the questions were, "what is Heather's favorite dessert?" and "what would Heather most like to lick off you?".  His answers were lemon cake and lemon buttercream, respectively.  He knows me so well!

And before your thoughts turn in a naughty direction, there was no licking of lemon buttercream during the making of this recipe, other than off the cupcake.

I had planned on making just lemon cream cupcakes.  But as it turned out, I forgot to buy lemons, and only had half as many as I needed.  But I did have a few limes, so by accident, these became lemon and lime instead of just lemon.

White cake mix really makes an amazingly light cake, and it's the perfect starter for citrusy cupcakes.  With plenty of zest and juice from the lemons and limes, and lots of cream, the cupcakes are bright without being too heavy or rich.  I filled them with lemon curd, although lime curd would work just as well.  And fluffy lemon lime buttercream with flecks of zest throughout.

The flowers are fondant, which I cut out with a little cutter and quickly painted by mixing a few drops of vodka with luster dust.

Since I had cored the cupcakes to fill them with lemon curd, I had a little bowl of cupcake centers left, so I pressed those into a glass, alternating with layers of leftover buttercream, for a little cupcake trifle for Jamie.

It was all very PG, I promise.

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Lemon and Lime Cream Cupcakes

Cupcakes and Filling:
  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 small lemons)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (2 small limes)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 jar lemon (or lime) curd
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 3 tablespoons cream
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin pan/s with 24 paper liners.

Bake the Cupcakes:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat all the cupcake ingredients (except for the lemon curd) for 3 minutes.  Divide batter between the liners.  Bake for 14-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks, covered loosely with clean kitchen towels.  When cool, use a cupcake corer to remove the center of the cupcakes.  Spoon the lemon curd into a piping bag and pipe the curd into the center of each cupcake.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter with the lemon and lime zest until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder.  With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar by spoonfuls.  Add the cream and lemon extract and whip the buttercream on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.  Pipe the buttercream onto the filled cupcakes.

Yields 24 cupcakes

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sunday Nap

After our air conditioning was fixed, and the house was finally starting to feel cool again, I closed my eyes and waited for Jamie to come home from his trip.  It was too hot to bake anything over the weekend, so I took full advantage of the opportunity to read and sleep all I wanted.  It was wonderful "me" time.

Photo taken with an iPhone standard camera app and the "Earlybird" filter.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sour Cherry and Blueberry Crumb Pie with Cream Cheese Crust

I've been dreaming of hot, dry fields of berries, and orchard trees laden with fruit and buzzing with bees.

Bare feet on cool grass still damp with morning dew.

Glasses of wine, sipped slowly beneath an apricot tree.

Biting into a peach that's hot from the sun, juice dripping down my chin.

I miss the trips we've taken to local farms to pick fruit and berries, and can hardly wait for our trip to Paonia in a few weeks.  Until then, though, I have to satisfy myself with what we have here, as uninteresting as it is to shop at the grocery store when orchard country is just a little too far out of daily reach.

After baking the blueberries and cream cake, there were plenty of fresh blueberries leftover, so I combined them with sour cherries for a sweet tart pie with a crumbly oat topping.  Jamie couldn't wait for the next day, so we cut into it while it was still warm, and topped it with ice cream.

We ate pie on the balcony of our condo while watching the fireworks for the 4th of July.

These are the days of summer that I love.


One Year Ago:  Mini Roasted Rhubarb Pies with Buttermilk Pastry
Two Years Ago:  Mounds Ice Cream Bars
Three Years Ago:  Cherry Rhubarb Shortcakes

Sour Cherry and Blueberry Crumb Pie
cream cheese crust:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, cold
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 pound sour cherries, pitted
  • 1 pound blueberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
crumb topping:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold 

Preheat the oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Cut the butter and cream cheese into chunks and scatter it over the flour.  Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter and cream cheese in until pea-sized pieces remain.  Scatter the ice water over the mixture, then use your hands to pull the dough together into a ball.  (do not add more water; the dough may seem dry at first, but eventually it will come together)

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick, then fit into a deep dish pie pan.  Fold the edges under.  Refrigerate while you get the filling ready.

Place the fruit in a large bowl, and toss with the sugar.  In a small bowl, whisk together the corn starch, flour, water and lemon juice to create a slurry.  Pour over the fruit and toss to coat evenly.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon and salt.

Pile the filling into the crust, and set the pie on the baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes while you prepare the topping.

Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl and use a pastry cutter to cut the butter in until coarse and crumbly.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

After the pie has baked for 20 minutes at 425, reduce the temperature to 375.  Sprinkle the fruit with the crumb topping.  Bake the pie at 375 for an additional 35-40 minutes until browned on top and the filling is bubbling.  Cover the edges with a pie shield, if needed, to prevent over-browning. 

Set pie on a wire rack and cool for at least 5-6 hours or overnight before cutting.

Yields 8 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Shortbread Brownies with Ganache and Dulce de Leche

These brownies are essentially candy bars for grown ups.

There's the crisp, buttery shortbread cookie base, the dark chocolate, chewy fudge brownie in the middle, the blanket of bittersweet chocolate ganache on top and a drizzle of dulce de leche.  Finished with a touch of coarse sea salt.  Sounds like a candy bar to me.

This summer is disappearing in a hurry, and as much as I would like to enjoy the slow hot days, I also can't wait for September to come, and to see all the wedding planning come to life on our wedding day.

After the wedding is over, though, our family gone back to their homes, and the last crumbs of cake eaten, I'm sure I'll be wondering, where did summer go?

One Year AgoChocolate Dipped Cherry Chip Cream Pops
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Three Years AgoPasta with Steamed Mussels and Lobster

Pecan Shortbread Brownies with Dulce de Leche and Ganache

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey's Special Dark)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces cream
  • Dulce de Leche
  • coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 325.  Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over both sides.  Spray with non-stick spray.

Make the Shortbread:
In your food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and pecans until combined.  Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, then the egg yolk, and pulse until the mixture resembles moist cornmeal.  Dump the crumbs into the pan and press firmly against the bottom of the pan.  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Make the Brownies:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and salt.  Pour the melted butter over the cocoa mixture and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add the vanilla, and the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg; batter will be thick.  Stir in the flour, just until moistened.

Remove the pre-baked crust from the oven.  Dollop the brownie batter over the hot crust and use a non-stick spatula to spread it out, being careful not to tear the crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist, sticky crumbs clinging to it.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the ganache, finely chop the chocolate and place in a small bowl.  Pour the cream into a small saucepan and warm gently over medium low heat just until it simmers around the edges.  Pour over the chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes, then stir with a spatula until smooth.  Pour the ganache over the brownies and smooth out with a spatula.  Let stand for about an hour, or until set (placing them in the fridge for a few minutes will speed up this step).

Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting them out by the parchment paper overhang.  Set on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into bars.

Scoop the Dulce de Leche into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip and pipe over each brownie.  Sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Yields about 25-30 brownies

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, July 6, 2014

June Instagram and a Bachelorette Party in Vegas!

It was a busy June!  I've fallen behind a little on baking lately with everything happening, although I did manage to turn out a few sweet treats here and there.  As you know, I had a photo of mine published on the cover of a cookbook, and then my girlfriends took me to Las Vegas for the weekend for my bachelorette party!

We stayed at The Paris, stayed up way too late, slept way too little, and had so much fun.  We even ate at Gordon Ramsey's steak house!  I have such a crush on him, but it seems he didn't get the memo, because he didn't make an appearance that evening.

I have the most wonderful sister and friends anyone could ask for.  As for all the little details of our weekend, well, I'll never tell.  After all, what happens in Vegas...