The pickle man

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cupcakes for the Cure - and Wilton's Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

How fast would you run for one of these?

 A few years ago, a dear friend and colleague of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her students came to me and asked if we could run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure as a group, for her.  I said of course! But they were worried about participation.  Even with such a great cause, it's hard to get teenagers to want to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to run.  So I announced that anyone who beat me in the race would get a cupcake :)  I have found in my 8 years of teaching that teenagers are HIGHLY motivated by food.  And competition.

To achieve this, I used a large Wilton open star frosting tip with the jagged edge.

I made the frosting, then I cut the end off of a Ziploc bag (although I highly recommend a frosting bag if you have one... I used to, and it's recently disappeared :( But my birthday is only a few days away!)

For the cake, you can make my mom's chocolate cake, or this Ina Garten version that is even softer and richer than mom's (sorry, Mom!). 

But what really makes these special is the buttercream icing. 

Here's the recipe, adapted from Wilton and my mother-in-law - the queen of all things frosting!

1/2 cup solid shortening (I buy the Crisco bars - they rock!)
1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature (DO NOT microwave this to soften it!)
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder (Hershey's is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bag powdered sugar, plus more as needed
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (I used skim)

In the bowl of a large electric mixer, beat the shortening and butter.  Add the cocoa powder.  The more you beat the cocoa powder, the lighter it will get, so be careful if you want a dark icing.  Add the vanilla and beat until combined.  Alternately add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, with the milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time.  You may need more milk or more powdered sugar, depending on the consistency you want.  To make a very thick frosting, you may need 1 cup more than the bag of powdered sugar.

Use a spatula to spoon into a frosting bag or Ziploc bag, fitted with the appropriate tip.  Go to youtube for a video, or visit my mother-in-law for a step-by-step tutorial on how to make pretty cupcakes :)


p.s., I think I'm going to find some pink sprinkles for these guys before I get to school in the morning.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Easy Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce for ice cream

Hot fudge sauce on ice cream - is there really anything better?

This (along with homemade pizza) has been the recent obsession at our house.  Of course, my husband desecrates it by dipping cream puffs from Walmart in it... apparently his way of saying I don't make cream puffs often enough...

Anyway, the reason I love this hot fudge sauce so much is that even when you put it over ice cream, it doesn't get hard and crunchy... nor does it puddle in the bottom of the bowl (like the thin stuff you get out of a bottle).  It's perfect... and very easy.

Place a pan of water on the stove.  Put a heat proof bowl on top.  Voila - you have just created a double-boiler, perfect for melting chocolate.  (I have no success with doing this in the microwave - the chocolate or the cream always burns or curdles or does something otherwise unpleasant.  However, if your microwaving skills are more advanced, feel free to melt the chocolate in the microwave).

In the bowl, place 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (chips are fine, but I had bars on hand - if you are using chips, this will be about 3/4 cup).  Add 1/4 cup heavy cream.  Heat until the chocolate melts. Stir until smooth.

Remove this from the heat.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of coffee.

And that's it!

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

1/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon coffee

Heat the first two ingredients on the top of a double boiler until melted.  Stir in honey and coffee.  Will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cucuzza soup (summer squash soup)

I love my neighborhood.

It's been an insanely busy few days at my house... but this afternoon, the neighborhood kids organized a huge game of hide-and-seek that kept my older son entertained for two hours.  Do you know how much you can get done with only one kid in two hours?  Especially if you are used to two?!

So my little man and I decided to do something with a squash given to us by our neighbor down the street.  It's a weird Italian squash, called a cucuzza.

(Oh, and don't be alarmed, this is definitely NOT a 2 hour recipe - the soup took about 30 minutes... it was the mountain of laundry that took the bulk of the afternoon).

As you can see, it's quite a bit longer than your average toddler (and for some reason, this will NOT rotate!).
I was introduced to this soup by Christina, one of my best friends from high school, while we were both living in New Orleans.  It was handed down from her grandmother, which definitely means it's something special.  She has the type of grandmother who invites the whole family (somewhere around 42 first cousins) over for spaghetti every Sunday - and believe me, if they're in town, they show up.  

Christina's mom, Christina, and her grandmother, Gammy

The other great thing Christina taught me about this soup is that you don't have to have funky Italian squash to do it... just plain old yellow squash and/or zuchini work great.

 Oh, and the other weird thing about this soup is that you poach eggs in the tomato broth toward the end... but trust me, it's amazing.

Recipe below!

1-2 lbs summer squash (zuchini, yellow squash, and cucuzza all work well)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce1 tsp dried oregano (1 tablespoon if you are using fresh)
1 cup water
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup wine
5-6 whole eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Slice the squash into thin rounds.  If you are using real cucuzza, you need to peel it first; yellow squash and zuchini both work well with the skin still on.

In a stock pot or other soup pan, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until sizzling.  Add the crushed garlic and cook briefly. Add the squash and saute until tender (about 10-15 minutes).  Add the tomato sauce, water, chicken stock, wine, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil and cook until the sauce changes color slightly (more of a brownish red, but it's subtle).  This takes about 15-20 minutes, but the soup is forgiving and can cook a little longer. 

About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve this, crack each whole egg into the soup.  Spread them around the pan and DO NOT stir until they have had a chance to cook a little.  You are basically poaching the eggs in the tomato broth.  Cook the eggs until their centers are firm.

Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese (a lot!) and serve with French bread and a green salad.