Archive for February, 2015

Beer Cupcakes with Candied Bacon Frosting

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

beer cupcakes with candied bacon



No one goes to school or work anymore. We shovel, and find ways to be together in our homes through what feels like one constantly barren and howling day. Snow days blur into weekends. which have now blurred into school vacation; our plans for which have been cancelled because this time the blizzard is in Washington D.C.





We almost enviously watch the lights of the plows tunnel through another storm: the plows can go anywhere. Our appointments have been cancelled. Our stores are closed. We’ve been banned from parking anywhere, banned from driving, banned from taking trains, sentenced to shovel egresses, to unburden our roofs and decks, to free our cars, and to do it all over again when the contemptuous winds raze it all in three gusts.

I toss logs in the fireplace to cheer things up. I make soups and stews, telling my family “this is just the weather for it!” We eat by the fire, because that feels so elemental. When stew is too much, I lighten things up: fresh cod with a Venezuelan pepper, garlic, scallion and cilantro sauce. We eat that by the fire, too, and I say how the brightness tastes so good.

But, today, my daughter said forget the tea-smoked chicken, Mom, I’m making “Beer Cupcakes with Candied Bacon Frosting.” After so many days trying to rake a positive attitude out of the embers of brewing moods, trying to nourish souls battered by arctic blasts, trying to write a to-do list under house arrest, I’ve found release in every naughty, absurd, wonderful bite of this Buzzfeed-born recipe.

Don’t call it weird until you’ve had one. The cake has an aley background indulged by that drift of sugary frosting. There’s a whiff of beer in the frosting, too. Snuggled into all is a wand of candied bacon (bacon tossed in brown sugar and baked to a caramel crisp).

Make these, and indulge like a sixteen year old who has had it up to the highest snow drift with her mother’s good taste and good sense. The mother has, too, and enjoyed every bite.


plate of cupcakes

Beer Cupcakes with Candied Bacon Frosting

makes 12 cupcakes


1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup beer (preferably a citrusy wheat beer)

for the frosting:

1 1/4 cup salted butter, softened

1/4 cup beer, room temperature

4 cups confectionary sugar (or more)

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

4 strips bacon

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 cupcake tins with cupcake papers.

2.  Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.

3.  In a mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar.

4.  Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next.

5.  Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, alternating with the beer, beginning and ending with flour.

6.  Pour into cupcake liners, and bake for 25 – 30 or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove onto wire rack and allow to cool completely.

7.  To make the frosting, beat butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the beer. The butter may break down a bit, but don’t worry; it will unite again with the sugar addition.

8.  Sift confectionary sugar into butter with mixer going very slowly. Keep adding sugar until all is added, and beat well. Add vanilla and salt, and beat until creamy. (You may need more confectionary sugar; add more until the frosting is stiff and creamy.)

9.  To make the bacon: preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay parchment down on a baking sheet. Cut bacon into three pieces each. Lay the pieces on the parchment.  Make a paste of the brown sugar and maple syrup, and spread it on top of each piece of bacon.  Bake until brown and bubbly about 12-15 minutes. Remove bacon and allow to cool on wire racks. Frost cupcakes, and tuck a piece of bacon on top of each.

Shy Creme

Sunday, February 8th, 2015


This valentine dessert is about the romance of local food – honestly wonderful local food as creamy, cultured and full of integrity as a cheese from a Burgundy farmhouse.

Cloumage comes in a carton. It’s a cultured fresh cheese that has the yeastiness of champagne and the fresh smoothness of creme fraiche. It’s sold at Whole Foods, and better grocery stores and cheese shops, but it’s created in Westport, Massachusetts.


Cloumage carton


Once the greatest dairy producer in the state, Westport has struggled against modern economics to preserve farm land. About five years ago, the Santos family, a third-generation Westport milk-producer, was forced to admit their accounting’s steep slope downhill. The sons – two sets of twin brothers – one set 53 years old, the other just turned 51 – wanted to only do what they had been doing since they were kids, take care of their cows. With the help of Barbara Hanley, who guided the dairy into cheese making, the brothers are doing just that: Norman milks the cows. Arthur feeds them. Kevin runs the machinery, and now Karl, who is famous for fact-keeping, makes the cheese.

Hanley and Karl traveled to Burgundy, France together in 2006, looking for a cheese style that would suit the Santos dairy. They returned with the model for a thimble-sized cheese called “Hannahbells,” named for the boy’s mother. As the cheese making began to grow, and Hanley began to give presentations about the farm, people at an event would ask, “where are these brothers; can we meet them?” Hanley would have to confess that they weren’t there because, “well, they are shy.” And so the dairy has been famously – and honestly – renamed, “Shy Brothers Farm.”

Now the shy brothers are making Cloumage, a soft cheese delicious spooned as is onto roasted pears or baked apples bubbling with brown sugar. Cloumage can bind lobster; it can stuff a pepper, rise in a souffle, even bake into a luxurious coffee cake. Drizzle a dish of Cloumage with local honey, strew with chopped rosemary and serve with slices of toasted baguette. Some Westport chefs say they have yet to find a place in the kitchen that Cloumage doesn’t improve.

Shy Creme proves how a carton of Cloumage in the refrigerator means you are just minutes away from an unusually wonderful dessert: a cup of Cloumage is whipped in a mixer with a cup of cream and some sugar until it comes to stiff peaks; spoon (or pipe if you’re feeling more formal) the creme – like a creamy, spoonable cheesecake – into dishes, and cover with raspberry sauce. For a textural variation, I sprinkled the top with chocolate graham cracker crumbs. The raspberry sauce and crumb preparation are slightly involved, but you could also simply heat raspberry jam with a little Chambord, and make crumbs from your favorite chocolate cookie; Oreos would work fine.  Also, my dessert tastes lean towards slightly less sweet; feel free to increase the sugar in the creme if you find it not enough “valentine.”


instagram dishes


Last winter, Hanley gave me a tour of the Shy Brothers cheese making operation, and then to see the family farm, the dairy barn, and to meet the cows. Hanley pointed to a small house where Arthur and Norman live next door. I asked how they felt about the exciting new contract with Whole Foods, and about all the excitement buzzing among chefs using the Shy Brothers cheeses; Hanley paused for a second, and then said, “I don’t think they even know; all those boys want to do is take care of the cows, they way they have all their lives.”


one dish, quince


Shy Creme

serves 6 – 8


For the sauce:

1 bag frozen raspberries (12 ounces)

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons confectionary sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

cold water to dissolve – about 1 tablespoon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla pinch salt

For the crumbs

3 ounces semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)

4 tablespoons cream

1 package graham crackers

For the creme:

1/2 carton Cloumage or 7.5 ounces

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup sugar

fresh raspberries


1.  To make the sauce, put frozen raspberries into a sauce pan with the water. Simmer until melted and broken down, about 10 minutes. Whisk in confectionary sugar. (Add more if you like the sauce sweeter.) Push sauce through a sieve to remove seeds. Wipe out sauce pan, and return the clear liquid to it. (Discard solids.)  In a small glass dish dissolve corn starch in cold water, stirring into a smooth mixture. With gentle heat on the raspberry liquid, whisk in cornstarch. Cook gently, constantly whisking, for 4-5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the cornstarch taste is gone. Stir in vanilla and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.

2.  To make the crumbs, put chocolate and cream together in a double boiler. Heat until chocolate is melted, and mixture is shiny. Blend graham crackers to fine crumbs in a food processor. Pour in melted chocolate and cream, and process well. The mixture will be a fine chocolate crumb.

3.  To make the creme, put the Cloumage, cream and sugar into the bowl of a mixer. Mix on high until the cream is sturdy, almost reaching peaks, about 4 minutes. Spoon into dishes (or pipe into champagne flutes). Pour cool raspberry sauce over each, and sprinkle generously with crumbs. Top with fresh raspberries.


dirty glass and 2 dishes

Mudiga Steak

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

from In Cod We Trust: From Sea to Shore, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts, by Heather Atwood

Mudiga Steak

serves 4

Mudiga is a seasoned bread crumb mixture used throughout the Gloucester Sicilian community. No one really knows the origins of the word, but the blend coats chicken, steak, vegetables and fills meatballs in Sicilian Gloucester kitchens. The crumbs seem to always promise that the dish will be good; everyone in Gloucester smiles when there’s something mudiga on the menu. There are still some Gloucester fishermen who rise for work at 3:00 and 4:00 a.m., and are looking for something hearty by 7:00; Mudiga Steak is still listed as a breakfast choice in not many, but a few Gloucester restaurants. In Gloucester Mudiga Steak is for breakfast, served on Virgillio’s Bread.

Ingredients for the steak

4 thick fillet mignon steak or New York strip steaks, trimmed

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

4 slices provolone cheese

4 crusty rolls


1. For the steak: Lightly bread the steaks with the breadcrumbs. Preheat the skillet to very hot. Sear the steaks on each side for 2 minutes, then lower the temperature to cook all the way through to your desired doneness.  Alternatively, broil for 4 minutes per side,  or until browned and cooked through.


2.  Cover each steak with a slice of provolone cheese.  Warm in oven until melted.

3.  Serve on warmed or toasted rolls.

Mudiga (Seasoned Bread Crumbs)

Yields about 2 1/2 cups.


1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (toast your own or you can use the regular store bought type)

1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped into very small pieces.

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine

salt and pepper to taste.


1. Mix all together and taste for salt and pepper. Freeze extra in a plastic bag.