Monday, March 18, 2013

Dark Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Baileys Irish Buttercream

Top o' the morning. I brought these into the office today to make our Monday a little more bearable. The deep, rich flavor of the beer complements the dark chocolate and makes for a dense and moist cake. Topped with the sweet, boozy Baileys Irish Cream frosting. This combination is beyond delicious and one of my new favorite chocolate desserts. Which is saying a lot.

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup Guinness Extra Stout
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
Baileys Irish Buttercream
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  3. Whisk in the Guinness, cocoa, and vanilla extract. Remove from heat.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and baking soda.
  5. Pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, then whisk in the eggs.
  6. Pour evenly into greased cupcake pans.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Allow the cupcakes to cool before icing.
* This cake recipe is adapted from the Global Table.

Baileys Irish Buttercream
  1. Cream together butter and shortening until smooth.
  2. Slowly add the milk, Baileys, sugar, and vanilla extract.
  3. Continue beating on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  4. Spread or pipe generously on top of the cupcakes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Supper - Beef and Guinness Stew

Happy St. Patrick's Day! This crock pot recipe is great for parade revelers and bar crawlers. Start it early, forget about it for the day, return home to a hot, tasty meal.

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 lbs. beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large onions, halved and cut into slices
  • 2 strips of bacon, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 bottle (12 oz.) Guinness draught
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lb. carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 1 lb. fingerling potatoes

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pepper, and one teaspoon of salt.
  2. Lightly toss the beef in the seasoned flour. Pat off any excess and reserve the remaining seasoned flour.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Brown the meat in batches, 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions to the skillet. Cook until tender for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Transfer the onions to a preheated 5- to 6-quart slow cooker and lay the beef on top.
  7. Add the bacon to the skillet and cook over medium heat until cooked through.
  8. Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, and reserved flour. Cook for 3 minutes.
  9. Stir in the remaining one teaspoon of salt, ancho chili powder, brown sugar, and beer. Simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened (about 5 minutes).
  10. Add the carrots and potatoes to the slow cooker.
  11. Pour the sauce over the beef and vegetables. 
  12. Bury the bay leaves in the sauce, cover, and cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 8-10 hours.
  13. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the parsley before serving.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Supper - Lasagna alla Bolognese

My kitchen adventure continues . . . as I now tackle the rest of the lasagna. Thanks to the previous recipe, a bottle of wine is open and looking a bit lonely. So, I grab a glass, or two, to assist in the process then jump into the next steps. Noodles, béchamel, noodles, assembly.

Note: I had never made noodles before. Believe me, this is less daunting once you are a half bottle into the process.

All of the time and energy (and flour all over the place) is totally worth it, though. This was absolutely the best lasagna that I have ever had. Made all the more delightful when you can say that it is made from scratch. So, take an afternoon and enjoy the experience.


  • full amount Ragù alla Bolognese recipe
  • lasagna noodles
  • béchamel sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached
  • 3/4 cup semolina flour
  • 2 large eggs
Béchamel Sauce
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, unbleached
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Prepare the bolognese sauce and set aside or allow to simmer on low heat.
  2. Begin to make the pasta dough.
  3. After the pasta dough has rested, cut the dough ball into four equal pieces. Leaving the remaining dough under the bowl, take one of the pieces of dough and flatten it with the palm of your hand. This will make it easier to initially push it through the machine.
  4. Pat both sides of the dough with flour. Start coaxing the dough through the largest opening of the pasta machine (No. 1 on mine). Fold dough lengthwise into thirds, and rotate 90 degrees. Pass through the machine two more times.
  5. Keep feeding the dough through the rollers, moving the size notch up one number higher each time. Pat the strips of pasta with flour to avoid sticking.
  6. Continue to roll dough through ever-finer settings, 2 passes each, until sheet is almost translucent (No. 6 on my machine).
  7. Repeat this process for each of the four sections of the pasta dough.
  8. Cut sheets in to 13 inch strips. Transfer lasagna noodles to a drying rack for 1 hour.
  9. Prepare the béchamel. When done, keep it warm in the upper half of a double boiler over very low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent a film from forming.
  10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  11. Fill a large bowl with ice water. 
  12. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 2 to 3 noodles at a time for 90 seconds.
  13. Using a wire-mesh skimmer, transfer noodles to cool water, and swirl a few times.
  14. Place cooked noodles on a parchment-lined baking sheet until ready to use, placing a piece of parchment between layers.
  15. Thickly smear the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with butter and one tablespoon of béchamel.
  16. Line the bottom of the pan with a single layer of pasta strips, allowing no more than 1/4 inch overlap.
  17. Combine the bolognese and the béchamel and spread a thin coating of it on the pasta.
  18. Sprinkle on some of the grated cheeses, then add another layer of pasta.
  19. Repeat this process, building up at least six layers of pasta.
  20. Sprinkle the top-most layer with the remaining cheeses and dot with butter.
  21. The lasagna may be complete up to two days in advance up to this point. Refrigerate under tightly sealed plastic wrap.
  22. Bake on the uppermost rack of the oven for 5-10 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  23. Increase the heat to 450 degrees F and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until a light, golden crust forms.  (Do not bake longer than 15 minutes total).
  24. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
* This recipe is loosely adapted from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

  1. Place the semolina and regular flour into a food processor bowl. 
  2. Add the eggs, then pulse the ingredients until a ball starts to form. 
  3. Add more flour or semolina if it seems too sticky. 
  4. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.
  5. Let the dough rest under a bowl for at least one hour.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk to medium low, bringing the milk just to the verge of boiling.
  2. While the milk is heating, melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. 
  3. Once melted, turn the heat to low and whisk in the flour. Cook, while stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Do not the flour to become colored. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the milk to the flour and butter mixture 1/4 of a cup at a time. Stir steadily and thoroughly until all of the milk is smoothly incorporated.
  5. Place the pan over low heat, add the salt, and cook until the sauce is as dense as thick cream. Stir constantly.

Ragù alla Bolognese

So, I got a bit of a wild hair this past weekend. I decided that I was going to make lasagna completely from scratch. Sauce, noodles, everything. I got up this morning, went to the grocery store, then hauled up in my tiny kitchen for the rest of the day.
First order of business, a delicious meat sauce. I highly recommend this one. Traditional recipe, simmered for four hours. The bolognese works perfectly in a lasagna or simply tossed with spaghetti and topped with grated Parmesan.

  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup celery, chopped
  • 2/3 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1 1/4 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (28 oz.) can imported Italian plum tomatoes, torn into pieces, with juice

  1. Add oil, 3 tablespoons butter, and chopped onion in a heavy 3 1/2 quart pot and turn heat to medium. Cook and stir onion until it has become translucent.
  2. Stir in the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble meat with a fork, stir well and cook until browned.
  4. Add milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add fresh nutmeg and stir.
  5. Add wine and let it simmer until it has evaporated. 
  6. Add tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When tomatoes begin to bubble, turn heat down so that sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through the surface.
  7. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it will begin to dry out and the fat will separate from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup water as necessary. At the end of cooking, however, the water should be completely evaporated and the fat should separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.
* This recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.