Tuesday, April 30, 2013

key lime curd & mascarpone tartlets

In the small town of The Plains, Virginia, about 8 minutes from my front door, the legendary Virginia Gold Cup takes place each year on the first Saturday in May.  This year will be the 88th running of this steeplechase race tradition, always on the same day as the Kentucky Derby.  Over 50,000 spectators come to beautiful Fauquier County from all around the metropolitan DC area, and beyond, dressed in their finest dresses, hats, suits and bow ties.  It's the social event of the spring! 

Obviously, with any splendid social event comes food!  Gorgeous spreads of food, drinks and beautifully decorated tables, are found in the sponsored tents and tailgating spots throughout Great Meadow.

This year, although being held a day before Cinco de Mayo, a friend is having a "key lime theme" - everything key limes.  What fun!  My contribution to this delightful cuisine theme are my colorful and luscious key lime curd & mascarpone tartlets!  I took photos for the blog during a trial run a few weeks ago, so I have the pleasure of enjoying them twice!

Key lime curd's beautiful shade of yellow, with its tangy flavor, and the creamy, sweetened texture from delicious mascarpone cheese, are blended together and encased in a free-formed, sweet shortcrust pastry shell.  These tartlets are unforgettable!  Hope you agree!

Until next time...mangia! xox


Key Lime Curd & Mascarpone Tartlets
Yield:  Key Lime Curd - approximately 2 cups / Tartlets - 24


for the key lime curd:
6 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use - I use them for egg white omelets)
1 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 lb. bag of key limes
1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (juice yielded from the same 1 lb. bag of key limes)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

for the sweet shortcrust pastry:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp cold butter, chopped
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon iced water

for the key lime curd & mascarpone filling:
key lime curd (approximately 2 cups)
8 ounce container of a good mascarpone (drained of any liquid)
heaping 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar
additional 1/8 cup confectioners sugar for dusting tartlets (optional)
mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Create the Key Lime Curd & Mascarpone Tartlets:

prepare the key lime curd:
In a bowl, whisk together until smooth, the egg yolks and sugar.  Whisk in the zest and juice from the key limes.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the whisked mixture, and the 1/2 cup of butter pieces.  Continue to watch and stir often with a heat proof spatula.  Do not leave unattended.  Continue cooking and stirring until mixture begins to thicken, about 15 minutes, or until a thermometer reaches 170 degrees F.  If you are not using a thermometer, test doneness with the back of a wooden spoon.  It should coat the spoon, and if you run your finger through it, it should leave a clear path on the spoon.  The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

Pour the curd through a strainer over a bowl, then pour into jar(s).  The strainer will catch any of the remaining zest or congealed egg.  Cool to room temperature, seal jar(s), and store in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

prepare the sweet shortcrust pastry:
Place the flour, butter, and confectioners sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process in short bursts until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  While the motor is running, add the egg yolks and vanilla.  Add the iced water and process until the dough just comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together to form a ball.  Flatten into a two equally sized discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Preheat over to 350 degrees F.  Roll one of the pastry discs out between 2 sheets of parchment paper to approximately 1/8" thick.  With a round shaped cookie cutter, large enough to line the cups of a mini cupcake pan, cut 12 circles.  Repeat with the other disc.  Line a lightly greased mini cupcake pan(s) with the 24 pastry circles. Free form each circle into each cup.  Prick the base of each with a fork.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Line each cup with mini cupcake papers, fill with ceramic pie weights (or rice or dry beans) and bake for 9 minutes.  Remove the weights and papers (be careful-hot!), and bake for an additional 8 - 9 minutes or until golden.  Set aside to cool.

prepare the key lime curd & mascarpone filling:
In a bowl, mix together the key lime curd and mascarpone.  Add in a heaping 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar and mix until smooth and creamy.  Cover with plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator to chill until ready to fill the tartlet shells.

assemble the tartlets:
Fill each tart shell with the key lime curd & mascarpone filling, about 2 teaspoons.  Loosely cover the plate of tarts with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 24 hours ahead.  Lightly dust with confectioners sugar and garnish with a mint leaf just prior to serving, if desired.  The tartlets keep well for several days in the refrigerator, but trust me, they will not last that long!

Carol's notes:
  • This is a wonderful make ahead recipe!  The curd can be made up to a week ahead or more.  The tartlet shells can be made a day ahead.  The tartlets can be assembled a day ahead and kept chilled in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • I used a 2:1 ratio for the filling - 2 cups curd:1 cup mascarpone to get more key lime flavor.  You can use a ratio of your choosing, or just curd alone.
  • If you prefer, just make the key lime curd!  Use it to spread on hot scones, toast, fill cupcakes, line layers of cake, add to oatmeal, or eat by the spoonful! ;)  You may choose to create a different size tart as well!  Use your imagination, and have fun!
  • You will have enough filling for approximately 36 tartlet shells.  You can make an additional 1/2 pastry recipe, or use it in the same ways mentioned for the curd.
  • When looking to buy your key limes, look for a yellowish color or yellow spots on the skin.  This color shows they were picked ripened on the tree.  If they are dark green, they were picked too early - still fine to use, but may be a bit more bitter.

The Sweet Shortcrust Pastry recipe is adapted from Donna Hay.  This delicious pastry was also used in my Blueberry and Lemon Mascarpone Tart found here.

The Key Lime Curd and Key Lime Curd & Mascarpone filling are a cup of mascarpone's own recipes.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

strawberry mascarpone dream filled cupcakes

Feeling like I'm visiting a farmer's market as I enter my grocery store these days, mounds of containers full of beautiful, succulent, red strawberries from California greet me.  I pick up several containers looking for the reddest, sweetest berries.  The grocery store fruit/produce stocker never gets mad that I'm disrupting his beautiful display, in fact, usually helps me, pointing out "here's a good one!"  He's aware of A Cup of Mascarpone, and is always eager to assist.  Love his customer service!

Now for the exciting news that will include strawberries, and my favorite disposable bakeware!  Welcome Home brands contacted me recently, asking if I would like to work with them on a giveaway of their fabulous, free standing, paper bakeware products...did they even have to ask?!!!  I love these things!  Beautifully decorated bake and serve pieces, no pre-greasing or pans to clean up, oven safe to 400 degrees, and a delightful way to gift your baked goods!  I can't tell you how many of my Starbucks Copycat Gingerbread Loaves I gave as gifts last Christmas...all so lovingly baked and received!

Brainstorming what to create, my thoughts went directly to strawberries.  Readily available from now through early summer, I thought they would be the perfect lovely ingredient to use in a recipe.  Ironically, after perusing and testing many recipes to select the best one ever for my very first giveaway, the recipe I eagerly decided on uses frozen strawberries.  So, you can buy fresh strawberries and freeze them first, or use already frozen whole strawberries...your choice.

A Strawberry Dream Cake recipe from the June/July 2011 issue of Cook's Country Magazine was what I decided on.  You can never go wrong Christopher Kimball!  Instead of making the two layer cake, I baked up scrumptious cupcakes utilizing the beautiful, pink and ecru designed cupcake baking cups from Welcome Home brands.  I adore their accordion style pull apart cups, that don't leave the normal indentations in the cake, visible from regular baking cups!  Plus, the paper decor doesn't disappear in the baking process!

The strawberry dream cupcakes may literally be the moistest, lightest, wonderful strawberry flavored cupcakes I have ever tasted!  A tender crumb, undoubtedly from using cake flour over all-purpose flour, with no artificial colors or flavors, I can't express enough how scrumptious they are.  I have to admit, you can actually view their deliciousness by looking in to the center of the cupcake in my photos!

Also changing things up a bit, I created my own strawberry mascarpone frosting which is absolutely divine, in place of Cook's Country cream cheese frosting.  My frosting turned out so incredibly decadent, with the whipped strawberry essence, butter, and creamy mascarpone, it required more than just frosting the dream cupcakes alone.  That's how the filling came about!

In addition to my Strawberry Mascarpone Dream Filled Cupcakes, A Cup of Mascarpone has three previous posts using the fantastic oven safe paper bakeware from Welcome Home brands. If you've missed them, click the post name below the following photos and it will take you directly to the recipes.  ...and, you will be able to create any of these recipes using the paper bakeware in either of the two giveaways!

I would love to hear from you if you create the glorious strawberry mascarpone filled dream cupcakes!  Enjoy the following 2 giveaways from Welcome Home brands and A cup of Mascarpone, as much as I have enjoyed presenting them to you!

Until next time...mangia! xox


GIVEAWAY #1 and #2 DETAILS (2 ways to win! - enter both giveaways):
Open to the US only.  Giveaway ends on Monday, April 29th, at 12:00 a.m. Eastern time.

Giveaway #1 - first photo below:
Enter through Rafflecopter below.
Randomly selected winner will receive 1 pkg. of 6 loaf baking pans from the Festive Collection, 1 pkg. of 12 baking cups from the Blossom Collection, and 1 pkg. of 12 mini loaf baking pans from the Fine Check Collection.  Winner will receive an email.  If no response is received in 48 hours, another winner will be selected.

Giveaway #2 - second photo below:
Enter by becoming a follower of A Cup of Mascarpone's blog (join this site with google friend connect - top right section of blog), and leave a comment below with your follower name (current followers just indicate your current follower name).
Randomly selected winner will receive 4 pkgs. of 12 mini loaf pans, 1 pkg. of 12 baking cups, and 1 pkg. of 30 baking cups, colors and designs as shown in photo.  This will come directly from A Cup of Mascarpone, and winner will be announced on my next blog post, and also on my Facebook page.  If no response is received within 48 hours, another winner will be selected.

Top photo:  Giveaway #1 - entering with Rafflecopter (giveaway from Welcome Home brands)
Bottom photo:  Giveaway #2 - enter by becoming a follower of A Cup of Mascarpone's blog, and leave a comment below with your user name.  (giveaway from A Cup of Mascarpone)
Disclosure:  This giveaway is sponsored by Welcome Home brands.  All opinions expressed are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Strawberry Mascarpone Dream Filled Cupcakes
Yield:  11 cupcakes (with Welcome Home Brand Stand Alone Cupcake Papers)


for the cupcakes:
10 ounces frozen whole strawberries (2 cups)
3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour (see Carol's notes below on how to make your own)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened (1 1/2 sticks)

for the strawberry mascarpone buttercream filling and frosting:
reserved strawberry solids from cupcakes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese (drained of any liquid in container)
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar (a little extra, if needed, for frosting to reach a good consistency)

for the garnish:
11 tops from whole fresh strawberries

Create the Strawberry Mascarpone Dream Filled Cupcakes:

create the cupcakes:
1.  Place oven rack in middle position and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place 11 Welcome Home Brands Stand Alone Cupcake Liners on a large rimmed cookie sheet, set aside.

2.  Transfer strawberries to bowl, cover, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 4 - 5 minutes.  Place in fine-mesh strainer set over a small saucepan.  Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least 3/4 cup); reserve the strawberry solids for the filling/frosting.  Bring juice to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup.  This will take approximately 6 - 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk milk into juice until combined.

3.  Whisk strawberry milk, egg whites, and vanilla in a bowl.  Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined.  Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute.  Add half of milk mixture, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Give batter a final stir by hand with a rubber spatula.

4.  Divide equal amounts of batter into each cupcake paper and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.  Cool cupcakes on pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan to wire rack, and cool completely, at least 2 hours.  The cooled cupcakes can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  I prefer keeping mine in the fridge, since they become easier to core out centers and frost.

create the filling/frosting:
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix butter and sugar on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add mascarpone, and beat until combined, about 1 minute.  Add reserved strawberry solids and pinch of salt and mix on low until combined, about 30 seconds.  Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until ready to use, up to 2 days.

fill, frost, and garnish the cupcakes:
1.  Remove the top 1/4, with greens and stems, of each fresh strawberry and set on paper towels to dry.  This is done so the strawberries won't leak juice on the frosting.  Set aside.

2.  Using a cupcake corer/or apple corer, gently press and remove the center of the cupcake, push out the round from the corer, and repeat with each cupcake.  It's perfectly ok to eat the rounds as you continue. ;)

3.  Fill a disposable pastry bag with about 1/3 of the frosting and pipe in each hollowed out cupcake center.  It's fine if it comes out the cored center, since you will be frosting the top in the next step.

4.  Frost each cupcake with a small bent icing knife, or desired frosting utensil.  Set a strawberry top on each cupcake for garnish.  Serve.  You can also refrigerate cupcakes for 2 days, and serve chilled or at room temperature.  I prefer this delicious strawberry cupcake chilled.

Carol's notes:

If you don't have cake flour, or don't want to buy a whole bag of it, here is how to make your own, (which is what I always do):  for each 1 level cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of the flour, and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  For the 1/4 cup flour, remove 1 1/2 teaspoons flour, and add 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch.  Put the 2 1/4 cups cake flour you have just made in a bowl and whisk to mix together.  The primary difference in cake flour and all-purpose flour is the protein content.  Cake flour is about 8% protein, where AP flour is about 10-11%.  PLEASE use cake flour, and not AP flour for this recipe, for the excellent results it provides.

If you prefer, you can make approximately 12-14 regular cupcakes, or 2 cake layers.  If so, prepare a regular size cupcake pan with paper liners, or 2 - 9" cake pans, and follow directions above adjusting cooking times as needed. The frosting recipe will be enough to frost the additional cupcakes, or the two layer cake.

Cupcakes adapted from a cake recipe from Cook's Country Magazine (June/July 2011 issue).
Filling/Frosting is a cup of mascarpone's own creation.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

ultimate mac 'n' cheese with butternut squash & broccoli florets

Happy Friday!  I've heard lots of wonderful feedback from many readers who have been enjoying my best-loved healthy entrĂ©es, cooked during the regular course of my weekly meals.  Today I have one of my brand spanking new creations! Since first making Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese to taste-test for the first time in early March, I have now created it three times!  Does that tell you how much I love it!

We all enjoy the comfort of digging into a big, beautiful bowl of steaming hot, baked macaroni and melting cheese, but tend to stay away to keep our waistlines semi in check!  The recipe I'm bringing you will give the memories of that hard to resist comfort food classic - in a slimmed-down version that is authentic, creamy, and decadent!!!  You will never think of macaroni and cheese as a stay away from food again.  Let me know if you agree after trying it yourself!  Oh, and with all the calories you're saving from this nutritious meal, definitely enjoy a class of wine with your serving. ;)

If you're new to a cup of mascarpone, here are my previous healthy entrĂ©es I've featured.  They are sandwiched in between my delectable sweet and savory posts, and are all delicious!  Just click the recipe name, and it will take you directly to the post.

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend!

Until next time...and "strawberry dream mascarpone filled cupcakes" (with a giveaway)...mangia!  xox


Ultimate Healthy Mac 'n' Cheese with Butternut Squash & Broccoli Florets
Serves 8


1 cup cubed butternut squash or 1/2 cup thawed frozen cooked butternut squash
1 cup steamed broccoli florets
3 cups multigrain elbow macaroni (cooked al dente)
5 tablespoons grated pecorino (divided: 3 tablespoons for topping and 2 tablespoons for mac 'n' cheese)
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 cups fat-free milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons light cream cheese (cut into chunks)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 cups shredded low-fat sharp cheddar

Create the Ultimate Healthy Mac 'n' Cheese:

1.  If using cubed butternut squash, bring squash and enough cold water to cover by 1 inch to boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat, cover until squash is tender, approximately 15 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a mini-food processor and puree.  (or use 1/2 cup thawed frozen cooked butternut squash)  Set aside.  Steam broccoli florets, enough to yield 1 cup steamed, and set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, mix together panko bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons pecorino, and evoo with a fork and set aside. Preheat oven broiler with rack in center of oven.  Spray a 2 1/2 quart ovenproof shallow baking dish with nonstick spray.

3.  Cook pasta, drain and set aside.  In same pot, whisk together milk and flour until smooth.  Add cut-up light cream cheese.  Cook over medium heat, whisking, until mixture comes to a boil, 5 minutes.  Whisk in salt, mustard, garlic, and cayenne.  Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking until mixture thickens, 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sharp cheddar, pecorino, and squash until cheeses melt.  Stir in pasta and cooked broccoli florets.

4.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with topping.  Broil until bubbling, 4-5 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Per serving (1 cup):  307 cal, 9 g fat, 39 g total carb, 5 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 19 g protein, 309 mg calc.  Weight Watchers PointsPlus value:  8.

Carol's note:
Feel free to change up the broccoli florets in the Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese, by adding in 1 tablespoon oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup finely chopped ham, 1/2 cup thawed frozen peas, 1 cup cooked lobster, or anything else you enjoy to the basic recipe!

Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers Magazine.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

chocolate buttermilk & white chocolate chunk muffins

I'm almost embarrassed to bring this delightful recipe to you.  It's one of the easiest muffins I have ever created! Two bowls.  A whisk.  A spatula.  A scoop.  Standard pantry ingredients.  How's that for simplistic?  However...the lovely flavor is anything but ordinary:  smooth, rich chocolate crumb - creamy, white chocolate chunks studded throughout - a crunchy, sweet crystallized topping!

My Chocolate Buttermilk & White Chocolate Chunk Muffins are part of the April Chocolate Party!  April's secret ingredient to pair with chocolate is buttermilk.    Thank you to Roxana, of Roxana's Home Baking, our charming host for the Chocolate Party each month.  If you click on the little blue frog link at the bottom of my post, you will find other delectable recipes that have been brought to the party.

You're going to find these muffins moist and tender, (but not brownie dense,) making them perfect for breakfast or brunch, and of course, a marvelous afternoon snack!  With a beautiful rise and muffin top, they embrace a "just right" sweetness.  The buttermilk creates a complexity and wonderful depth to the chocolate crumb; and a dotting of buttery, white chocolate chunks adds a lovely, creamy texture.  I decided to complete them by sprinkling turbinado sugar (a minimally refined, light brown colored, crystalline sugar) to the tops prior to baking. The result was a deliciously crunchy, naturally sweetened top, made even more special by baking them in the 4" diameter muffin cups.

Have I persuaded you to whip up a quick batch for your family this weekend? :}  Serve warm from the oven, and you will be met with smiles and approval!  ...and, in case you're wondering - they freeze beautifully!

Until next time...mangia!  xox


Chocolate-Buttermilk White Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Yield:  approximately 18 regular size muffins or 8 large muffins (like my photos)


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup baking cocoa (I used Trader Joe's Unsweetened Cocoa Powder)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk (see Carol's notes)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white baking chips (I used Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bars and cut into chunks)
turbinado (raw sugar) for sprinkling on tops (this is my addition, optional - but highly recommended!)

Create the muffins:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spray or grease muffin pan(s) or line with cupcake/muffin papers.  I used 8 free standing 4" diameter baking cups from Welcome Home brands set on a cookie sheet.  You can also use a muffin tops pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, butter and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in baking chips or chunks.

Fill your choice of prepared muffin pan/paper cups - three-fourths full.  If desired, sprinkle with turbinado sugar for a crunchy coated top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 14 - 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Don't over bake.  Cool 5 minutes in pan before transferring to wire rack.  Best served warm, but also delicious at room temperature.

Carol's notes:

If you don't have buttermilk, make your own - which is what I always do.  For this recipe, with a 2 cup measuring cup, squeeze 1-1/3 tablespoons lemon juice in it.  Pour your milk in the measuring cup up to 1-1/3 cups.  You can use non-fat, low-fat, or whole milk.  (I used whole since I had some on hand for another recipe.)  Let it sit for about 3 minutes, and it will become acidic and curdled.  That's it!

If using the Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bars, it will take three 4 ounce bars - cut into chunks.  If you prefer to use white baking chips, I always get the best results from Ghirardelli.

Adapted, with my own touches, from Taste of Home.

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