Marshmallow Cream Frosting

Some months back I made chocolate whoopie pies following a recipe I found at King Arthur Flour. The cake component was good however the filling was just out of this world. I wondered at the time if it would make a good replacement for my usual cake topping. I gave it a go for my husbands recent birthday and it was delicious. Just enough sweetness to enhance, and not overpower, the cake.

Marshmallow Cream Frosting
Servings: covered a 13″x9″ cake with a bit to spare
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups Marshmallow Fluff
  • 2 tsp. table salt dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
  • 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. tangerine oil

Directions:

  1. Beat the shortening, sugar and Fluff together in the bowl of a stand mixer until combined.
  2. Add the dissolved salt, vanilla and tangerine oil. Mix into the frosting and then beat for 2 minutes on high. Frosting should increase in volume.

Notes:
You can replace the tangerine oil with additional vanilla extract if you don’t have it on hand.

Marshmallow Fluff is a spreadable, white gooey confection, sometimes called marshmallow creme. There are several makers of marshmallow creme but the one I grew up with was simply known as Fluff. You can find Fluff throughout the Northeast, some Midwestern states and California according to manufacturers. If all else fails, there’s always Amazon.

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Almond Cherry Cake

[Almond Cherry Cake]Searching for a suitable dessert to make for Easter Dinner at my mom’s house is a delicious challenge. While most of us enjoy a chocolate whatever-you-bake special dinners are a chance do something different. I had some cherries in the freezer that I wanted to do something with. An hour lost to the Internet provided several options. In the end I opted for this lovely creation on the right.

Notes under the cut

Pressure Cooker Country-style Pork Ribs with Red Wine and Tangerine

My husband isn’t big on following recipes. He uses them more as guidelines on what will work and then applies is knowledge of ingredients to make substitutions. The result is often delicious if unrepeatable. He came up with this dish weekend and he’s been making some variation of it every few months ever since. I finally watched him make it, taking notes, to come up with a close approximation.

I’ve made this dish on a weeknight. After about 15 minutes of active time the rest is just letting the pressure cooker do it’s marvelous work unattended.

Pressure-cooker Country-style Pork Ribs with Red Wine and Tangerine
Servings: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. country-style pork rib (bone-in if possible)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bottle light-bodied red wine, such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir
  • 1 tangerine
  • 1 Tbsp. potato starch
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Pat dry the pork ribs and sprinkle with salt and pepper on all sides.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the base of the pressure cooker until shimmering. Add enough pork ribs to cover the bottom of the pan without crowding and sear for 3-5 minutes on each side. Work in batches if needed, transferring the browned meat to a plate while browning the second batch.
  3. Add the onions to the cooker along with a pinch of salt. Scrape up any fond that may have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Add the red wine and return the pork to the pan.
  4. Remove the peel from the tangerine using a vegetable peeler, leaving behind as much white pith as possible. Add it to the pressure cooker. Halve the tangerine and juice 1 half of the orange into the pan (you’ll use the other half later).
  5. Clamp on the lid to your pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook with a light release of steam for 20 minutes.
  6. Release the pressure and check the meat. It should be tender but not quite falling off the bone. If it’s ready transfer it to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. If not close the lid, rebuild pressure and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  7. When the meat is ready fish out the tangerine peel. Squeeze the remaining tangerine half into a small bowl and add the potato starch. Stir to combine and then add the slurry to the liquid in the pan. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Cook at a boil for 1 minute to allow the sauce to thicken. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as desired, and serve.

Notes:
We like this with egg noodles as the sauce coats the noodles well. Rice or mashed potatoes would work too.

You can use corn starch if you don’t have potato starch. I’d avoid flour unless you want to make a Beurre manié.

Tangerine Spice Cupcakes

Ted’s birthday came around once again and we settled on this tangerine scented spice goodie for dessert.

Tangerine Spice Cupcakes
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (I used Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon)
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. tangerine oil

Directions:

  1. Arrange oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line 2 12-cup muffin trays with cupcake liners.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the flour, soda, powder, salt and spices. Set aside.
  3. Combine the butter, shortening and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat for ~2 minutes until combined and fluffy.
  4. Add the water, eggs, vanilla and tangerine oil to the mixer bowl. Beat on low until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer and scrap sides. Give the batter a final mix by hand to make sure any stray flour is incorporated.
  6. Use a disher to fill the cupcake liners.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes on the same oven rack, rotating the pans and swapping sides half way through backing. Test with a toothpick at the end of baking; it should come out clean if inserted in the center of a cupcake.

Notes:
Tangerine oil can be found online or as part of a set in specialty cooking gear stores such as Sur La Table. A little bit goes a long way.

This recipe is based on a sour cream spice cake from an old Betty Crocker cookbook I received when I first moved out on my own. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list, reordered it to match how I prepare the batter and rewritten the “dump everything and mix” instructions.

After cooling completely I covered these with my simple buttercream frosting.  I added 1/4 tsp. orange oil to the frosting.  I topped about half of them with Ted’s candied tangelo peel.

Coconut Date Bars

While reacquainting myself with the Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates cookbook I came across their recipe for spiced coconut date bars. I thought they would fit in with our holiday party buffet offerings so I set out to make the recipe. The results are pretty tasty.

Here’s my version of their recipe. I’ve adjusted the amounts and written the recipe up in my own words.

Coconut Date Bars
Servings: 25 pieces
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes (plus 30 minutes to cool after baking)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 12 oz. Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 200g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup “old-fashioned” rolled oats (not instant or 1 minute oats)
  • zest and juice from one tangerine
  • 1/2 cup unsweeted coconut flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 8″ square baking pan with baking spray.
  2. Spread chopped pecans in a single layer on an unoiled sheet pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 6 minutes, shaking pan every two minutes. When you can smell the nuts they are probably done. They should be lightly browned. Set aside for the moment.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine dates and 3/4 cup of water. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for 15 minutes. Stir occassionally until the dates are soft.
  4. Combine the flour, spices and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk gently to combine.
  5. While the dates are simmering away you can make the crust & topping (it’s the same mixture). Add the butter and brown sugar to the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachement. Turn on to low to combine and then turn to medium for 5 minutes until butter has lightened in color. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture; beat until combined. Add the oats and pecans; beat until combined. The result will be a crumbly mixture with lots of lumps.
  6. Meanwhile, back to the dates. When they are done add the tangerine zest/juice and the coconut. Stir to combine and set aside.
  7. Dump about two-thirds of the crust into the baking pan and use the buttom of a measuring cup or glass to compact it into a firm layer. Spread the date mixture over the crust. Crumble the final third of the crust mixture over the top of the date mixture.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 15 minutes. The top should pick up a golden hue and the edges may turn dark brown when the dish is done. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  9. Use a knife to cut around the edge of the bars. Then cut the bars into 5 columns and finally 25 squares.

Notes:
I found the easiest way to cut the bars was to transfer them to a cutting board. You’ll actually need 2 cutting boards to accomplish this. After cutting around the edges of the pan to loosen the bars place the first cutting board over the pan. Hold the pan and board together and flip the pan upside down. Gently lift the pan; the date bars should stay on the cutting board. Now place the second cutting board on top of the date bars and, again, flip the bars upside down. Remove the first cutting board and the date bars should be upside right with the crumb topping on top.

Cranberry Tangerine Scones

I woke up wanting scones and so I made them. This recipe, with slight modification, comes from Ocean Spray.

Cranberry Tangerine Scones
Servings: 4 (2 scones each)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 27 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • a pinch plus of cinnamon (I used Ceylon)
  • a pinch plus of ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Craisins (or other dried cranberries)
  • zest from 1 tangerine
  • extra sugar for sprinking before baking

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 1/4 sheet pan with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter to dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to work the butter into the dry goods. After 5 minutes or so the butter should be well cut into the dry goods and the dry goods should look grainy.
  4. Add 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cream, egg, Craisins and tangerine zest. Mix until dry ingredients are moist and the dough holds together when compressed..
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Pat into a circle 3/4-inch thick; cut into 8 wedges.
  6. Place on cookie sheet. Brush with the remaining heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Bake 12 minutes, rotating the sheet pan half way through.

Notes:
My husband prefers tangerines over oranges so that’s what we have in the house this time of year.

For me “a pinch plus” means something like a sixteenth of a teaspoon. I use the tip a teaspoon handle to reach into the jar, grab a small amount of the spice and add it to the bowl. Both spices here are really background notes that you may not taste in the final product. I think they help enhance the other flavors.

The directions from the original recipe suggest that the flour, et al and butter, once cut in, will look like small peas. Mine didn’t even after 10 minutes of hand blending with the pastry blender. It looked more like flour mixed with rice with some bigger pieces amid the flour. So don’t fret if you don’t see small peas.

Candied Tangelo Peel

Hello, world – all the Afterlife Cafe posts you’ve seen so far were from my trusty sidekick Bob — occasionally you’ll see a reference to “Ted” or “we”.  I’m Ted.

I made a whole mess of candied tangelo peel today for hot cross buns.   I usually candy tangerine peels and thought I’d give tangelos a whirl – they have sturdier peels which makes this a bit easier.  These last a long time in an airtight container in the freezer – I just finished a slightly stale batch that was still usable from December 2010.

Start with the whole peels of 8 tangelos, torn in pieces as large as possible.
Put the tangelo peels in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil, then simmer over very low heat until the white part of the peels scrapes off easily without the whole peel disintegrating – took me about 35 minutes but it depends how low you keep the heat, so check them often.
Drain the peels and let them cool 10 minutes.
Carefully scrape off the white part of the peels with a spoon and discard it.
Slice the peels into strips.

3 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup corn syrup

Back in the saucepan, bring this to a full boil, and carefully add the tangelo peels.
Simmer this over very low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

1 lb sugar in a large bowl

With a small amount of that pound of sugar, dust a half-sheet lined with a silicone mat.
Drain the peels.  I haven’t figured out a great use for the syrup yet… maybe poaching fruit?
Quickly lay the peels out on the dusted silicone mat, using tongs to spread them out so they are touching as little as possible.
Let them cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
Dust the peels with a bit more sugar to make them easier to handle, then transfer them to the large bowl and complete dust the peels with sugar, packing down slightly so that no sticky parts remain exposed.
I usually let them dry for another hour, then store them in an airtight container in the freezer until I’m ready to use them.

You can eat these like candy, chop them up and put them in hot cross buns or other breads, top cakes with them, and lots of other things I’m sure.  Tomorrow I’ll put some in a cherry glaze to serve with ham.

Candied Tangelo Peel