Coconut Cupcakes

There are many recipes for coconut cupcakes out there, I have tried many of them. My second favorite is from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. Their recipe includes making a coconut pastry cream which is incredible but it requires a lot of work. Ina Garten has created a perfect cupcake in this recipe which takes just 30 min of actual work to create. The only thing that bothers me about this recipe is the buttermilk. For some reason I have not embraced buttermilk as a refrigerator staple. I bought almond extract for this recipe and it is a worthwhile investment. You will absolutely make these cupcakes more than once. Serve these with prosecco. One of my favorite budget sparklings will be delightful with these: Cupcake Vineyards Prosecco NV. It is made from 100% Glera grapes (the grape for proseccos) but it is not overly fruity and sweet like some other proseccos.

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Coconut Cupcakes

For the cake:
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
7 ounces shredded coconut, unsweetened preferred

For the icing:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in the coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner with batter nearly to the top. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth. (Alternatively you can use a hand mixer for this, I did.)

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with coconut if you desire.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Pizza Dough

I have tried many different recipes, some involving a food processor, some by hand. But this recipe made in a stand mixer produces great results every time. This recipe will make 1 pound of pizza dough, two 12 inch crusts. I almost always make a double recipe. You can store the extra dough in the refrigerator or in the freezer. The dough actually gets more chewy after being refrigerated. If you’re having people over for game day, you can make this days ahead. Pizza is obviously versatile. Tomato sauce, turkey pepperoni, parmesan and mozzarella can be thrown on this dough in 5 minutes. I bake my pizzas on a stone which is preheated in a 500 degree oven.

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This recipe calls for bread flour. It is important to use bread flour because of the protein content. I use King Arthur brand which is 12.7% protein. King Arthur all purpose flour is 11.7 % protein which is on the high end compared to other all purpose flours which are 10% to 12%. Cake flour is around 8%. The significance is in the gluten. Gluten is what gives the texture to your pizza dough, and anything else you bake. Higher protein means more gluten and chewy dough. You create these gluten bonds when you knead the dough. Or as in this recipe, when your stand mixer kneads the dough.

Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey (sugar or agave can be substituted)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups bread flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and honey with warm water (110 degrees). Wait 10 minutes until bubbles form and it gets foamy (see bubbly yeast to the left). Add in salt, oil and half the flour. Using the dough hook, mix to combine.

Once the flour is mixed in, add in the rest of the flour bit by bit until combined. The dough should be tacky but should not stick to your hand. You may need to add more flour, add this 1 tbsp at a time.

Knead the dough with the mixer on a medium to high setting for 7 minutes. The mixer bowl will be clean after 7 minutes. Use olive oil to lightly grease the dough and the bowl. Cover with a warm towel and allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

This is an original recipe from the Bubbly Kitchen.

Mascarpone Tart

It is summer time and the strawberries in North Carolina are intoxicating. And it’s not just when you purée them and add champagne to sip by the pool. This tart was inspired by some extra mascarpone that was nearing expiration. Deb at Smitten Kitchen takes the credit for her perfect tart shell . I prefer to make my tart dough ahead of time and keep it in the fridge (it should stay for up to five days) or you can freeze the dough until you are ready to use it.

MascarponeTart

This dessert is absolutely perfect with freshly picked North Carolina strawberries. It would be fabulous with a number of other fresh fruits.  Roederer Estate Brut from the Anderson Valley in California is a fabulous complement to this Strawberry Mascarpone Tart. Out of the sparkling wines from California this is one of the closest to the French champagne style. It has very fine bubbles and floral notes.

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Mascarpone Tart
Serves 8-10

Sweet tart shell:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

Filling:
8 oz mascarpone (at room temperature)
8 oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
1/8th cup to 1/4th cup confectioner’s sugar (depending on how sweet you like the filling)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Topping:
1 lb strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
1 tbsp sugar

Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Add the egg and process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough forms clumps. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Form into a disk, wrap the dough in plastic, and chill for two hours.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (I rolled mine out between saran wrap.) Turn the dough into your prepared 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in to create double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown.

Allow the tart shell to cool completely while you prepare the filling. Using a hand mixer (or stand mixer) combine the mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla extract. Whip for at least 2 minutes until fluffy and well incorporated.

Spoon the filling into the cooled tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Allow this to cool in the fridge for approximately two hours, or until the filling is set.

Mix your sliced strawberries with the sugar and allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving.

Tart shell adapted from Smitten Kitchen. The filling is a Bubbly Kitchen original recipe.