Welcome back.

I think one of the hardest things a foodie can endure in life is cancer.  Now I’m not saying cancer is a walk in the park for anyone because it just isn’t, plain and simple.  But in my experience, it was additionally difficult as I watched this disease whittle away at not only a hobby, but a defining facet of who I was.  Without me in the kitchen, Ben and I started to lose out on one of the things we enjoy most about our relationship – our mutual love of food and wine, shared nightly at our little dining table.  A severe deficit of energy, an extremely sensitive stomach and an esophagus ravaged from radiation treatments ensured not only weight loss (hey skinny jeans!) but an utter lack of interest and desire to do anything in the kitchen, including re-arranging the dishwasher per my OCD tendencies.

Thankfully, all of that is changing.  Treatment is over and with each day, I get stronger.  And more hungry.  And more ambitious.  So it should go without surprise that I am starting to have random ideas and crazy cravings again.  The first on my list?  Passion fruit curd.  As I hunted the local Asian market for 100% passion fruit juice, I mentioned my idea to Ben – I wanted to make a passion fruit curd and fill angel food cupcakes with the delightfully sweet and tangy concoction.  A random stranger stopped in her tracks, looked at me and asked if I own a bakery.  When I said that I didn’t and I just really liked food, she continued on her way.  Ben looked at me and said “Bet that made your day.”  I grinned.  It did.

Well, finding passion fruit proved harder than I anticipated.  That is, until I went to Foodie Mecca, aka Whole Foods.  I love this place.  It is so easy to be inspired while walking through the aisles of pristinely displayed produce, freshly baked breads, piles of gourmet cheeses, oh, I could wax on.  But, last I checked, I don’t have a job in the Whole Foods marketing department, so let’s move on.  I happily strolled through the store and made my way to produce.  Jackpot – passion fruit!  I was off to the races.

So I learned something very quickly this weekend.  I am r-u-s-t-y.  Five months of quality couch time had not sharpened my skills.  This was a great idea that I think still has merit, but I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe did not turn out as expected.  That might have a little something to do with me overcooking the curd and scrambling my eggs a little.  Or, being a little too shaky to separate eggs and starting over not once, but three times when making the angel food cake.  In the past, I probably wouldn’t have shared this recipe until I had it right.  But you know what?  Life’s too short.  And I have a lot of cooking to do.  Welcome back, friends!

– j

Passion Fruit Curd Filled Angel Food Cupcakes

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

7 passion fruits

2 large eggs

1/3 c. sugar

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced into small pieces

1 3/4 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. cake flour

1 dozen egg whites, room temperature

1/3 c. warm water

1 tsp. orange extract

1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

 

For the passion fruit curd:  Cut passion fruits in half.  Using a spoon, scoop flesh from passion fruit and place in a saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer and remove from heat immediately upon simmering.  Stir constantly for five minutes.  Pour fruit puree and seeds into a fine mesh strainer positioned over a small mixing bowl.  Using a spatula, press juice and pulp through strainer until only seeds remain.  You may have to bruise a few seeds to get them to pop and release juice.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of your strainer before discarding seeds.  Set passion fruit puree aside.

Combine 2 eggs and 1/3 c. sugar in a saucepan or bowl.  Fill another saucepan with about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low.  Add passion fruit puree to sugar/egg mixture and place saucepan/bowl over the prepared double boiler.  Whisk constantly for 8 minutes or until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat.  Place butter, one small piece at a time, in curd and whisk until incorporated.  Repeat with remaining butter.  Transfer curd to a container and place a section of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

For the angel food cupcakes:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine half of the sugar, the salt and cake flour in a mixing bowl.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites and cream of tartar.  Using a whisk, incorporate cream of tartar into egg whites thoroughly.  Add water.  Place bowl on stand mixer and whisk on high until doubled in volume.  Slowly add in remaining half of sugar and whisk until medium peaks form.  Add orange extract and whisk for about 30 seconds more.  Remove from stand mixer.  Sprinkle in about 1/3 reserved flour mixture and fold into egg whites.  Repeat with remaining 2/3 flour.  Carefully spoon batter into mini muffin pans.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If making regular sized cupcakes, bake for 17 minutes.  Cool completely.

Fill a plastic bag with curd.  Using a paring knife, puncture a small hole in the bottom of cupcakes.  Snip a corner off of the bag filled with curd and pipe curd into hole on bottom of the cupcakes.  Repeat until all are filled.

key lime pound cake

“In my mind, I’m going to Carolina.  Can’t you see the sunshine?  Can’t you just feel the moonshine?”

This song has been on continuous repeat in my mind, playing over and over ever since it kicked off my youngest sister’s wedding reception on a stormy beach on Hilton Head Island in March.  It played over and over as I packed us up for a vacation back to Hilton Head – one of my favorite places – just a few weeks ago.  And it plays in my head still, beckoning me back to the sea pines, to the sandy beaches, and to the lazy harbors I’ve come to love in the more than 15 years since my first visit there.  Sadly, a return trip isn’t in the cards in the immediate future.  But if I do a little baking and close my eyes, you’ll find me going to Carolina in my mind.

There’s a hidden little gem on the island that’s known, at least amongst my family, for their pound cakes.  My newlywed sister called as we were vacationing to make a few requests:  a shrimp po’boy and a slice of key lime pound cake.  I wasn’t too keen on the idea of packing shrimp alongside my flip flops and sunscreen for the return home, so instead I set out to at least provide the key lime pound cake so we could have a little taste of the Palmetto State whenever wanderlust strikes.

There’s something magically “vacation-y” about the flavor of key lime for those of us in landlocked states.  The simultaneously tart, sweet and almost creamy flavor instantly refreshes and reminds us that we’re in a warmer, sunnier place.  The palm trees don’t hurt, either.  Key lime has been one of my favorite flavors for as long as I can remember.  Every time we’d go to visit my grandparents when they were living in Florida, I’d always have to stop for a slice of my favorite key lime pie.  Super tart and creamy with just a hint of frost from the super chilled refrigerator, it was the perfect way to combat the heat of the summer sun.  To me, key lime is as refreshing to my palate as a sudden jump into the pool at 4:00 on a hot and sticky afternoon.

I was intrigued by this key lime pound cake and set out to make a lighter, less dense version than the traditional pound cake.  Disclaimer:  I don’t bake much.  I don’t like to measure.  Therefore, as I willy-nilly added ingredients here and there, I wasn’t so sure of what the final product would look or taste like.  To be honest, taste was good.  It was pleasantly tangy, perfectly flavored with the key lime and sweetened condensed milk.  Looks were good too – at least for the first five minutes out of the oven.  My lightening attempts (whipping the egg whites into soft peaks before folding into the batter) resulted in a concave center to my lovely cake when I returned to see how the cooling process was progressing.  Mistake #2 was leaving the cake in the pan for a full 24 hours, covering with plastic wrap, and transporting across state lines so my little sister could have a taste.  My advice would be to follow the directions as written below.  Hopefully you’ll have better luck.

key lime pound cake

recipe:  adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Food, Florida Key West Inc., and Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery & Cafe

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Salt

4 large eggs

3/4 c. plus 2 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. grated key lime zest plus 1 Tbsp.

1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk

1/2 c. key lime juice

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a loaf pan.  Sift 1 1/2 c. flour onto waxed paper.  Spoon the flour back into the sifter and add baking powder and a good pinch of salt.  Sift the flour mixture two more times.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs until light and lemon colored.  Add in 1 1/2 tsp. key lime zest, sweetened condensed milk, and key lime juice.  Mix until thoroughly combined. 

Gradually fold the sifted flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Combine remaining key lime zest and 2 tsp. sugar.  Sprinkle over the top of the cake and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick pierced in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a baking sheet.  Serve in slices.

Here’s to Carolina dreamin’!

-j

PS – even as I loaded these pictures to Flickr, an ad for visiting Charleston appeared as my photos uploaded.  It must be fate!

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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