Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

If you can't tell, I am a little obsessed with the Ad Hoc cookbook. Pretty much everything I have made has been amazing, and these cupcakes were certainly no exception. The cake itself is moist and carrotty and not overly sweet, and the frosting is perfection. Now, I am a very strong advocate of cream cheese frosting in any form, and this was certainly no exception. In fact, I would encourage you to go and make these cupcakes as soon as you can.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (barely adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)

1 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/8 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots

3/4 pound cream cheese, room temperature (I used reduced fat to little difference)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cupcake cups with liners. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, vanilla, and both sugars with a mixer until smooth. Add in oil. Slowly add in all dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Mix in carrots.
Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake cups. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a tester in the middle comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tins and let cool on rack.
Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, in a large bowl beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Add butter and mix until smooth. Add powdered sugar, then vanilla and mix until competely incorporated. Scrape excess frosting down sides of bowl and beat for 30 seconds on high.
Spread frosting on cooled cupcakes. These can be refrigerated for up to two days, but will probably be gone by then. Makes 12.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fazzoletti with Arugula Pesto

I think my mom makes the best pesto I have ever had. Which is surprising, considering our very Scandanavian and distinctly non-Italian heritage. However, I look forward to it every summer without fail, when it dresses up the simplest pasta, or is equally delicious smeared on a slice of crunchy baguette. I had been thinking about pesto for several days when coincidentally, one of the articles in the New York Times happened to include a recipe for "Fazzoletti with Chunky Pesto" and I knew I had to make it that very evening. Of course, my grocery store did not have basil this time of year, but luckily they did have arugula, which is nearly as good. Ari and I also decided to try out the new pasta maker(!), to excellent effect. I don't know that it is all that much faster than rolling out the dough by hand, but with this recipe you could also mix the dough in a food processor, which was fantastic and removed a lot of the kneading.

Fazoletti (Pasta Handkerchiefs) with Arugula Pesto (adapted from Mark Bittman)

For pasta:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed

2 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

For Pesto:

3 cups loosely packed arugula, rinsed and dried

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as desired

1/4 cup pine nutsor walnuts

1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish


1. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor once or twice. Add the eggs and yolks, and turn the machine on. Process just until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Add a few drops of water if the dough is dry and grainy; add a tablespoon of flour if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out of the food processor, sprinkle it with a little flour, cover it with plastic or a cloth, and let it rest for about 30 minutes. (At this point, you may refrigerate the dough, wrapped in plastic, until you’re ready to roll it out, for up to 24 hours.)

2. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the arugula with a pinch of salt, the garlic and about half the oil. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and adding the rest of the oil gradually. Add the nuts and cheese, and pulse a few times. The pesto should be well combined but still chunky.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Divide the dough in quarters, and follow directions for pasta maker, if you have one, until dough is around 1/8 of an inch thick. Otherwise, to make it by hand, turn one half of the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a large rectangle no thicker than 1/4 inch and ideally closer to 1/8 inch, adding additional flour sparingly as necessary. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

4. Cut into squares no larger than 4 inches across. Drop the squares into the water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the handkerchiefs with the pesto, some salt and pepper, and a spoonful of cooking water, if necessary, to thin the pesto. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan.

Yield: 4 servings.