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S’more’s Cupcakes


This recipe says “party,” so no surprise it comes from Rebecca Rather’s “Pastry Queen Parties.” The author says she makes the cupcakes ahead of time, then swirls on the marshmallow topping and browns it just before serving. All the flavors of the famous campfire treat are there, too, from the graham crackers to broiled marshmallow topping — and plenty of chocolate in between.

S’mores Cupcakes

Graham Cracker Base:
2 cups graham crackers (about 16 whole crackers)
1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter), melted
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup high-quality unsweetened cocoa (such as Green & Black’s or Scharffen Berger)
3/4 cup brewed coffee, or 1 tablespoon espresso powder, fully dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (12-ounce) bag large milk chocolate chips, (such as Ghirardelli)

Marshmallow Topping
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar

To make the Graham Cracker Base: In a bowl, stir together the crumbs, the 1 cup melted butter and the 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line Texas or standard-size cupcake tins with paper cupcake liners. For the crust, press the graham cracker base into the bottom of each well; about 3 tablespoons for a Texas-size cupcake; about 2 tablespoons for a standard-size.

Melt the 1 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth. Add the coffee and whisk until smooth. Add the 2 cups sugar, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla to the warm cocoa mixture. Whisk until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt and whisk until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Evenly divide the batter to fill each cup almost to the top of the muffin papers. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and when the cupcake feels firm when lightly pressed in their center, 20-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and invert onto wire cooling racks. Cool for at least 30 minutes before decorating.

To make the marshmallow topping: Set a large, perfectly clean metal bowl over a pot filled with 2 inches of lightly simmering water. Add the egg whites and the 1 1/2 cups sugar and heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar melts and there are no visible sugar grains in the meringue. (Rub a little bit of meringue between your fingers to make sure all the sugar has melted.) Remove the meringue from the heat and beat it with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed until the meringue is stiff and shiny, about 5 minutes.

To assemble cupcakes: Spoon the marshmallow topping into a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip. Pipe the topping onto each cupcake in a circular motion, starting at the outside edge of the cupcake and working toward the center. I like to pipe it on generously so that it comes to a peak in the center that is 2 to 2 1/2 inches high. Or, pile the topping on top of the cupcakes. Style it with your fingers by plucking at it to tease it into jagged spikes or shape with a spoon. Using a kitchen torch, brown the marshmallow by moving the flame slowly around the topping, avoiding the cupcake papers until it is evenly golden brown.

Alternatively, you can brown the topping under a broiler. Set the cupcakes on a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and broil until the meringue topping turns golden brown, about 1 minute. Watch the cupcakes closely, as they can go from browned to burnt in seconds. Serve the same day you make them.

You can make these cupcakes in advance, but not frosted, and freeze them for up to 2 weeks. Defrost them completely before finishing with the marshmallow topping. With topping, they will keep for about 2 days uncovered in the refrigerator.

Makes 12 Texas-sized or 18 regular sized cupcakes.

From Rebecca Rather’s “Pastry Queen Parties”

 

 

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Cool and Refresh With a Watermelon Mojito


Watermelon adds another flavor factor to this great drink.

On a hot, summer evening in San Antonio, there are few things quite so refreshing as a waiter strolling up to your table with a dripping glass pitcher of mojitos; icy, limey and packed with mint.

Here’s a recipe that includes all of the above, with the addition of watermelon, which adds another dimension of flavor and refreshment. This recipe comes from Rebecca Rather’s book, “Pastry Queen Parties,” and she credits the recipe to cocktail specialist David Alan. Rather suggests having the elements to this drink, including chilled glasses, ready for friends after a dazzling day under the Texas sun.

 

Watermelon Mojitos

Mojito Base

1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Handful fresh mint leaves
1 cup light rum
1/2 cup aged rum

Additions

Per drink: 3 or 4 chunks peeled, seeded ripe watermelon
Ice cubes
Club soda
Watermelon slices and sprigs of mint, for garnish

To make the base: Add the agave nectar, lime juice and mint leaves to a large glass pitcher and lightly bruise the leaves with a wooden spoon or muddler. Add both rums.

For each drink: Add the watermelon to a tall, 8-ounce glass and lightly mash with a wooden spoon or muddler. Add a generous amount of ice and fill the glass two-thirds full with mojito base. Top off with club soda and garnish with a slice of watermelon and a sprig of mint.

Makes 8 drinks

From “Pastry Queen Parties” by Rebecca Rather; cocktail recipe from David Alan

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Butterscotch Brownies with Brown Sugar Butter Icing


Rebecca Rather’s book “Pastry Queen Parties,” (Ten-Speed Press, $32.50) offers treats big in Texas style for entertaining. Leafing through it, you’ll see such things as Cajun Catfish Tacos with Chipotle Mayonnaise, a big, cool Marinated Crab Claw Salad, Watermelon Mojitos, S’mores Cupcakes (with marshmallow cream topping, off course) — it’s enough to make you want to start planning a half-dozen parties and start cooking.

These Butterscotch Brownies with Brown Sugar Butter Icing seem like a lighter, brighter version of the heavier chocolate and gingerbread sweets we make at Christmas — perfect for a summer potluck or birthday party.  In the book, the brownies are pictured neatly stacked, all individually half-wrapped in strips of parchment paper. A gracious touch to a very sweet offering.

Butterscotch Brownies with Brown Sugar Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups firmly packed golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
Icing:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups firmly packed golden brown sugar
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a half-sheet (13-by-18-inch) pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter or cooking spray. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup butter and the 3 cups of brown sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoons vanilla and continue beating for another minute. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture on low speed until incorporated. Stir in the pecans. Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake until the bars are set and slightly puffed, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

For the icing: In a saucepan set over medium heat, melt the 1 cup butter and 2 cups brown sugar. Once the mixture is lightly bubbling, decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 more minutes; set aside. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachement, beat the powdered sugar, half and half and vanilla on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the melted butter mixture and beat until well combined. Pour over the cooled brownies and spread evenly. Let the brownies sit for about 30 minutes to let the icing firm up before cutting into squares.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen 2-by-3-inch bars

From Rebecca Rather’s “Pastry Queen Parties” (Co-written by Alison Oresman)

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10 Cookbooks That Make Great Gifts


CookbookGifts

The past year has been a good one for cookbook lovers, with dozens of new titles covering every topic from opulent cocktails to special desserts. Here are 10 choices in no particular order that would make great gifts to various people on your holiday shopping list:

1. “La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy” (Rizzoli, $45)  – Fifty years ago, a group of Italians known as the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina decided to collect recipes from throughout their home country. The recipes were gathered region by region, and the project was only completed in 2001. It took eight years, but this encyclopedic approach to the country’s culinary riches is finally available in English. The end result can be richly rewarding for those who are not slaves to a recipe, as some need finessing (too little water here, too much spice there). Yet the compilation is exhaustive, exhilarating and an exciting new way to view Italian cuisine.

2. “I Know How to Cook” by Ginette Mathiot (Phaidon, $45) – The success of “Julie & Julia” has turned the spotlight on Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” But don’t overlook this French volume, first printed in 1932 and now available in English for the first time. More than 6 million copies have sold in its home country, and it’s easy to see why. It’s clear and concise. Yes, editors have updated the work, making the 1,400 recipes more direct without losing their Gallic charm. Soon, you’ll be saying “Je suis cuisiner” (“I know how to cook”), too.

3. “Pastry Queen Parties: Entertaining Friends and Family, Texas Style” by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman (Random House, $32.50) – Who can resist a cookbook with a recipe for something called Peach Daiquiri Likkercicles? Fredericksburg pastry chef Rebecca Rather offers recipes for six Texas-style parties ranging from San Antonio Fiesta (of course) to Gulf Coast Beach Bash. Nothing pretentious here, and many of the recipes use home-grown recipes, such as Honey-Lavender Rack of Lamb.

4. “The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets With Ideas for Inventing Your Own” by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter, $35) – DeMasco, Tom Colicchio’s former pastry chef, uses seasonal ingredients to create an array of spectacular desserts. She also tells you how to adapt your recipe to what’s in season, so a Rhubarb Rose Cobbler becomes a Mixed Berry Cobbler as the seasons change. The list of must-bake recipes just keeps growing as you leaf past the likes of Pine Nut Tart With Rosemary Cream, Pumpkin Seed Brittle and Raspberry Granola Bars.

5. “America’s Most Wanted Recipes” by Ron Douglas (Simon and Schuster, $15) – Ever wanted to make Olive Garden’s salad dressing in your own home? Or Johnny Carino’s Five Cheese Chicken Fettuccine? Copycat versions of all your favorites are here, including Red Lobster’s Cheddar Biscuits and Luby’s Spaghetti Salad. There are no pictures in this affordable paperback. But who needs pictures? You’ve had the dishes enough at each of these chain restaurants to know what it looks like. The recipes are no presented in a no-nonsense way that makes each easy to replicate in your own home.

6. “The Conscious Cook” by Tal Ronnen (William Morrow, $29.99) – This vegan chef has taken a familial approach to his cookbook, inviting fellow vegan chefs to join him in creating a surprisingly varied array of dishes. He starts with the basics, including a section on cashew cream, which he swears “makes it easy to live without dairy.” He then moves on to small plates, salads, soups, sandwiches, entrées and desserts. Even meat-eaters could like Paella With “Sausage,” Nori-dusted Oyster Mushrooms and Wine-braised Artichoke Hearts or Cajun Portobello Sandwich with Avocado and Rémoulade.

7. “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller (Artisan, $50) – The chef/owner of the French Laundry goes for more accessible fare at his home-style restaurant, Ad Hoc. By accessible, we mean Buttermilk Fried Chicken and chicken pot pie. Those who were put off by the tortured, laborious recipes Keller presented in his overwrought “French Laundry Cookbook” will be surprised by the warmth and down-home style here. “Ad Hoc at Home” is still a large, coffee table-sized book that won’t fit into many small kitchens easily, but the recipes will leave you hungry for more.

8.  “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method” by Jim Leahy (W.W. Norton & Company, $29.95) – If you’ve always wanted to make bread but haven’t trusted yourself around yeast or the controversy about kneading (too much vs. too little), then this book is for you. Leahy mixes flour, yeast, salt and water together quickly, then leaves the mixture alone for 12 hours before baking it in a Dutch oven. That’s it. And people swear by the results. Once he finishes the basics, Leahy takes cooks on through a series of breads as well as pizza dough.

9. “Foods and Flavors of San Antonio” by Gloria Chadwick (Pelican Publishing, $19.95) – Want to send a taste of home to some friends who live far away? Check out this cookbook, which is a savory mix of traditional Alamo City classics presented alongside some colorful variations, such as Chipotle Salmon to Apple Enchiladas. Chadwick also offers some good information on the city’s cultural traditions and attractions, making it a keepsake for locals and tourists alike.

10. “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummond (William Morrow, $27.50) – Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond (thepioneerwoman.com) welcomes you to her culinary frontier, where home cooking is prized by all. Recipes for Cowboy Calzone, Tomato-Basil Pizza and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes are all accompanied by step-by-step photographs, so you can cook to your heart’s content with assurance. From Spicy Pulled Pork to Patsy’s Blackberry Cobbler, this is an Oklahoma answer to Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home.”

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