Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New York Calls

I'm off to New York to visit friends, throw an engagement party and enjoy the city. Hopefully, I'll return with a full hostess report and plenty of new finds. In the meantime, here's a little taste of my favorite town...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Coconut Cupcakes for a White Wedding

Last weekend, I prepared 100 mini coconut cupcakes for a friend's wedding. It was my first "catering" job, and luckily, it went off without a hitch. The bride and I are both fans of coconut and we thought the white, snowy cupcakes would look very bridal. For the cake, I used a recipe from Ina Garten and for the frosting, a royal icing recipe from Nigella Lawson. The end results were dainty little cakes that were pretty tasty if I do say so myself.

Coconut Cupcakes

Recipe courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and the Food Network

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
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, 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, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes (for mini cupcakes, bake 15 to 20 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.

Royal Icing

Recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson and the Food Network

2 large egg whites (or substitute powdered egg whites)
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine the egg whites and confectioners' sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, this will thin out the icing. Beat for another couple of minutes until you reach the right spreading consistency for the cupcakes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cheater Cheesecakes

I think these mini cheesecakes are a perfect party food. The recipe is simple, and you can whip them up the day before an event. Feel free to put your own spin on the dessert with different toppings and crusts. For mine, I went with a sliver of fresh strawberry, but mini chocolate chips, chopped pecans and caramel sauce would have made for a tasty turtle cheesecake. And while I'll never turn down a opportunity to use chocolate, vanilla wafers, gingersnaps or shortbread would also work for the crust.

Mini Cheesecakes

16 oz. softened cream cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

One Oreo pie crust
4 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat all ingredients until fluffy. Fill mini muffin pans with cupcake liners. Combine the Oreo crust with melted butter. Press crust in the bottom of each liner, then fill two-thirds of the liner with the cheesecake mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. Makes 24 cheesecakes. Allow the cheesecakes to cool before topping with a slice of strawberry or whatever you choose. Refrigerate overnight.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pink Moons and More

So no joke, I was just listening to music on my computer and browsing the Internet. As Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" started playing, I landed on the Etsy home page, which was featuring what else? Pink items!

Here are a few of the featured pleasantly pink finds: pompelmo rosa earrings, pebble bowl, cranberry moonglow beads and a peony silk-lined clutch. Check them out with some terrific background music.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Daring Dishes

When it comes to cocktail parties, I tend to focus on the food and often overlook what it's being served on. But recently, I came across an Etsy shop where dishes get all the attention. Dishfuls of Doodles specializes in whimsical hand-painted tableware, including bowls, platters and vases. Porcelain whiteware is decorated with bold colors and intricate designs that fit together like a puzzle. The pieces are food-safe, hand-washable and full of personality. If you're not careful, they might even steal the show from the food.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Homemade Ice Cream Experiments: Chocolate Sorbet

This week my ice cream maker and I returned to our first love: chocolate. I opted for a sorbet because it must contain fewer calories, right? The result was a deadly rich, dark chocolate concoction that's smooth, tasty and disappears all too quickly.

Chocolate Sorbet

Recipe courtesy of
The Perfect Scoop

2 1/4 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the water with the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk, for 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend for 15 seconds. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the mixture has become too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.

While it will be hard to stand the wait, I suggest keeping the sorbet in your freezer overnight before serving.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bubble Toes

When I'm hankering for a new pair of flats quick and cheap, I always check Old Navy, and this week, they didn't let me down. Their bauble ballet flats available in purple, pink, blue, gray and more are absolutely adorable. The bevy of bright colors and the flare on the toes will spice up any outfit built on basics. I think I'll buy a pair or two to get me through all those events that seem to pop up at the end of summer.


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