Sunday, February 14, 2016

Mini (Key) Lime Tarts

The groundhog has spoken- spring is nearing quickly!! Citrus is a staple in my house during spring and summer.  I'll buy 4-5 different types of oranges and everyone creates their perfect orange juice blend.  I'll buy grapefruit 10 pounds at a time and they'll be gone in a few days between grapefruit curd, juice, and breakfast.  Lemons become lemonade and lemon curd. But limes? Limes are reserved for key lime pie (and occasionally a chicken marinade). My entire family LOVES key lime pie. Loves it.  And no, I don't mean the pastel green, sickly sweet, lime gelatin flavored pie you find in the frozen food section.  I mean real key lime. Being this far north, key limes are extremely hard to come by. When I can find them, they should be renamed rock limes- so old that they're mostly brown and rock hard. That's ok though.  I'm resourceful.  By subbing out a bit of regular lime juice for that of clementine or tangerine (those miniature easy peeling kid-friendly snack oranges)- you get really really close to authentic key lime flavor.  So that's what we're going to do here. 

Juice 1 pound of limes and 1 small clementine (or tangerine). Stir in the zest from 2 limes and set it off to the side. 

In the bowl of your food processor, process the graham crackers until fine. Add the 1/4 cup sugar and zest from 1 lime and process again.  Mix in your butter until thoroughly combined.  With graham crackers- look for the honey variety. They are SO much better than the original!  If you have a food processor, use that for the crumbs. It isn't necessary but does make a uniform crust that packs nicely. If you don't- make sure your graham cracker crumbs are really finely crushed and stir everything together in a bowl. 

Divide the crust mix between 12 lined standard cupcake/muffin cups. Lining them isn't absolutely required but does make removal exponentially easier. Take a glass that is slightly smaller than your cupcake liner and pack the crumbs down. Bake them in a 350F for 10 minutes.  They will puff up and you will be scared you messed up.  Don't be scared- they'll settle back down as they cool. 

While the crusts are baking, you'll have just enough time to make the filling. Convenient! Mix the sweetened condensed milk with your egg yolks. (Farmer plug- check out how awesomely orange our free range eggs are!!!)

Add the juice and zest from earlier.  As you stir it will thicken quickly. 

Pour over your mostly cooled graham crusts.  It's ok if the crusts are still a bit warm. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F. 

Here's how they'll look after baking- notice they aren't green. Lime pie isn't green- it should be a yellowish color. 
Also see the little flecks of zest in the tarts- it adds a nice punch of flavor. 

Once they cool to room temperature, refrigerate then for an hour.  This really lets the flavor get better.  As they cool the liners will separate from the tart a bit- makes for easier eating.  Pop them out of their liners and enjoy!! 

1 1/4 cup honey graham cracker crumbs 
1/4 cup sugar
zest from one lime
5 tablespoons salted butter (you may use margarine or coconut oil here)

Combine the crumbs, sugar, and lime zest.  Mix in the melted butter until everything is evenly moist.
Take the crumbs and divide them as equally as you can into a a standard cupcake pan lined with cupcake liners. Using a cup that approximately fits the bottom of the tin, push the crumbs down to the bottom. 
Bake in a 350F degree oven for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

2 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk ( fat-free or low-fat work just fine)
1/2 cup lime juice (the equivalent of one pound of limes)
1 clementine or tangerine worth of juice (2-3 Tablespoons)
Zest of 2 limes (just the green, no white pith)

Mix the condensed milk and egg yolks together until combined. Add both of the juices and zest. Stir to combine. It will thicken up almost instantly.

Pour batter into each graham cracker cup until 3/4 full. Cook at 350F for 15 minutes. Cool and chill in the fridge for about an hour. The citrus juice will cause the cupcake liners to peel away a bit, for aesthetics you can remove these before serving. Keep leftovers in a sealed container for up to 4 days in the fridge. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The BEST Super Rich Chocolate Frosting

Those who know me personally, KNOW I'm a baker. I bake constantly- and that isn't an understatement. One of my most requested frostings is dark chocolate. Today, to celebrate 25,000 views on my blog, I'm giving you all that recipe!!! 
A condensed version can be found at the very bottom of this page. ENJOY!! :) 

Here goes- melt 1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) salted butter. You can sub in margarine for the butter if you must. Put the melted butter and 1 cup of cocoa powder in the bowl of your mixer. (If you use a hand mixer, be aware this can get messy as it flies all over the place. You've been warned...) Beat on low until it looks like grainy ganache. 

Once you get to the grainy ganache phase take the speed up a few notches and whip until it looks like fudge! If you lick it, it'll taste bitter and weird. Don't let your eyes fool you. You aren't to the lick the beaters phase yet. You're getting there though- stay with me. 

Now toss in 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on the lowest possible setting so that you don't blow 2 cups of powdered sugar 15 feet in every direction. 

It will look like snow covered dirt balls. Congrats, you did it correctly! 

Now pour in your ½ cup of milk and mix until it looks like grainy ganache again. This will take a couple minutes. 

Add in another 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on suuuuuper slow again. Once it's all incorporated and looking terrible, raise the speed to medium and beat. Eventually (3-4 minutes later) it will look like actual frosting. Stir in your vanilla. You can swap out the vanilla for other flavored extracts too- hazelnut, coconut, orange, and almond all work really really well! From here you can add the other ½ cup of powdered sugar and make it stiffer or omit. If at the end of beating it's too thin, add more powdered sugar a bit at a time. If it's too thick for your need, add a tiny bit of milk at a time until it's where you need it. 

NOW you may lick the beaters! I suggest making this when any other human is out of the house or you'll have to share. In my house, 1 gets the bowl, 1 gets the beater, and 1 gets the spatula- I'm usually left out. Then I got smart. I make the best stuff when everyone is asleep or gone. Genius? Yes, I'd like to think so. Or maybe I'm just a chocoholic. The world may never know...

  • The BEST Dark Chocolate Frosting
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Melt butter, stir in cocoa. Add 1/2 of the powdered sugar, mix. Add the milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add the remaining powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add a small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 4 cups of frosting

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Built-in Bookshelf Around Existing Window Tutorial

I am not an expert in building things with wood. I'm actually fairly terrible at it. I like to guess and estimate measurements- the opposite of any respectable woodworker.  When Husband and I do a project together, he's the one measuring down to the nearest 1 billionth of an inch. My job is to figure out the geometry of the project.  I typically design, figure out the angles, and troubleshoot the flaws he points out in my plan. 

One of the things that drew me to this house originally was the charm. There are a ton of nooks and window seats. Those are always my favorite places to hang out- especially when they overlook property as pretty as ours. Our living room has that exact feature. We didn't touch it because we thought it would become a neat place to sit.  Well, a year and a half later I can count on a single hand the number of times someone has sat there.  The way the living room is laid out, it just isn't useful space. The toys, books, and puzzles always end up on it. See?

So I needed a plan. I wanted to find an upside down U-shaped bookcase to fit that exact space.  I had no luck- big surprise.  I found skinny bookshelves from Ikea to fit the sides and considered buying them.  However at $90 for each of the 2 I'd need- that seemed ridiculous.  That $180 didn't even include the horizontal piece for over the window.  Next option- just build one. Husband was fairly against the idea and didn't think it was necessary.  Good thing 2 of my sisters, Kiki and Bee, were on their way to stay with us for a week.  In a few short hours I'd have 4 extra hands to help with kidlets and my bookshelf.  Once they got here, we spent a few days Netflix and chilling. We all needed that.  After I got them nice and relaxed, I hit them with my plan.  They were all for it.  Kiki and I headed to a lumberyard and bought all the wood we'd need.  And then I changed the plan. Figures I'd get an awesome idea after the wood was purchased... Again, I ran it by them and we were all in agreement.  The original plan was to use all 1" x 12"s.  The new plan had the whole bookshelf slant inwards.  So the outer edge would remain 12" deep but the inner edge would be 8". It would require slightly more figuring but wouldn't make it exponentially harder.  Bee and I returned some of the wood, refigured our amounts, and bought the remaining pieces needed.  We got home and stacked it in the garage.  Husband got home and tried really hard to stay out of it.  However, he saw the different sized boards and got worried we bought the wrong sizes.  Au contraire mon cheri!  He promptly left us to it.

Here is a color coded drawing of the plan.  The blue and green pieces are 1"x12"s while the red and orange pieces are 1"x8"s. The shelves don't matter to the basic structure so I left them off for simplicity's sake. The measurements are insignificant because it's highly unlikely my space is the same size as anyone else's.  What matters is how it gets put together. If I can recommend anything- measure a dozen times.  We found our space around the window was neither even nor square front to back, left to right, or top to bottom.  It took a LOT of finagling to get it into place.

Here is the order we put it together.  Everything was screwed using a countersink bit.  The green is the board along the ceiling.  We screwed the blue legs in using 3 long screws per piece.  The orange piece was barely wider than the window casing- and I mean barely. We screwed the narrow legs into that and then joined the wide and narrow pieces together.  It was fairly flimsy so we cut a couple shelf pieces and added those for stability.

A quick test fit let us know we were on the right track.  Do you see what I mean about being barely larger than the window casing?  It was a tight fit.

This angle lets you see the concave shape of the overall form.

For the shelves, we didn't have to figure out any angles. We used 1"x12' pieces cut to the correct shelf width.  After measuring the front side where it would meet the 1"x8"- we drew a line and cut on that. It was very simple.

For the uprights near the corners, we used scrap pieces to create an angled face piece so that it matched the rest. We just countersunk screws right into the face and filled the holes later. You can see it in the photo below.

Bee went around and filled all the holes before the entire thing was sanded and painted.

We are extremely proud of what we built.

This is before screwing it to the walls and putting quarter round around the entire thing.