Monday, December 29, 2008

Butterscotch and White Chocolate Haystacks


Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it, from the decorating, to watching the traditional holiday films, to the holiday baking. One of the things I remember as a child was making these "Haystacks" around the Holiday Season. They are extremely simple to make, and they taste great. They are always a crowd pleaser. Everywhere that I take them, they quickly disappear.



Butterscotch and White Chocolate Haystacks:

1-11 oz. package butterscotch chips or white chocolate chips
2 cups chow mein noodles (prefereably La Choy)
2/3 cups salted, roasted peanuts

-Over a double boiler, melt the butterscotch or white chocolate chips. Once the chips have fully melted, mix in the chow mein noodles and the peanuts. Make sure that the peanuts are dispersed evenly throughout the mixture.
-Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto wax paper and allow to harden.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

TWD: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is from Vibi of La Casserole Carrée She chose for us to bake the Thanksgiving Twofer Pie from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The recipe can be found here. The Thanksgiving Twofer has a layer of pumpkin pie topped with a layer of pecan pie. I followed the recipe exactly, and it was fairly easy to make. The only thing I would do differently next time would make the crust hang over the edge a bit more next time. It really shrunk up during the initial baking time.

This was a big hit at Thanksgiving dinner. My dad, who doesn't like pumpkin pie, liked this one, and my mom said it was the best pie crust she had ever had. I would definitely make this again. Be sure to check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll to see what other bloggers did with their pies.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting


This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen by Dolores from Culinary Curiosity. Dolores, along with Jenny of Foray into Food and Alex of Blondie and Brownie chose for us to bake Shuna's Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. The original recipe can be found on her blog, Bay Area Bites. I chose to make cupcakes out of the recipe, it made about 18 total. The cupcakes took about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake came out clean. There is also a recipe for Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels included in this post. I didn't get to make them, but I definitely would like to try them in the future.

CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

CARAMEL SYRUP

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back. One Daring Baker suggested putting a piece of foil that has a hole in the middle of it over the pot and pouring the water through it, in order to prevent getting burned.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

(Optional) GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS
- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

Ingredients
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Equipment
A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Procedure

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

White Bean and Chorizo Soup


It is starting to get cold outside, so I thought this weekend would be a good time to make a hearty, comforting soup. I found this recipe for a White Bean and Chorizo soup, and I decided to try it. I made a few changes from the original recipe. I like my bean soup thick, and the original recipe calls for a lot of liquid. I also used Spanish chorizo which is similar to andouille or smoked sausage rather than the fresh chorizo that is used in the original recipe. It is less greasy, and the smoky flavor goes well with the beans.


White Bean and Chorizo Soup

serves 6-8
  • 1 1/4 pound dried cannellini or Great Northern beans (generous 2 1/2 cups)
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves; 1 smashed, 2 chopped
  • 1 large fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup chopped onions (about 1/2 a large onion)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans of chicken broth
  • 1 pound Spanish chorizo link sausages (fully cooked), casings removed
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or whipping cream
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh parsley, chopped

Place beans in heavy large saucepan. Add enough water to pan to cover beans by 4 inches. Let beans soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain and rinse beans; return to same saucepan. Add 8 cups water, 1 tablespoon oil, smashed garlic clove, rosemary, and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Season to taste with salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer until beans are just tender, about one hour. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool slightly, cover, and chill.)

Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Discard rosemary sprig and bay leaf. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme; sauté 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups reserved bean cooking liquid, the chicken broth, and beans. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Cool soup 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté chorizo in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer chorizo to paper towels to drain.

Using slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the bean mixture from soup; reserve. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or working in batches, purée remaining soup in blender until smooth. Return puree to pot. Stir in reserved whole-bean mixture, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme, chorizo, and the milk or cream. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cold. Cover and keep chilled.) Rewarm soup over medium heat, thinning with more broth if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Divide soup among bowls, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve. This soup goes great with some crusty bread for dipping.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Chocolate and Vanilla Arborio Rice Pudding


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is from Isabelle of Les gourmandises d’Isa. She chose for us to cook the Arborio Rice Pudding from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I love rice pudding, so I was excited when I heard we were going to make this. This recipe is very simple. You simply parboil the rice, then simmer it with whole milk and sugar until the mixture is thick and creamy. Dorie had an option of making half the rice pudding chocolate and half of the rice pudding vanilla, which is what I did. You simply divide the mixture once it is cooked and add vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste) to one half, and chopped bittersweet chocolate to the other half. I topped my vanilla pudding with whipped cream and cinnamon, and my chocolate pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. This pudding tasted good. It was a bit too sweet (especially the chocolate half), so I would probably cut back on the sugar a bit, but it was still tasty. The recipe in the book states that you should let the rice and milk simmer for 35 minutes, but Dorie herself posted over at Tuesdays with Dorie, and said that there was a typo, and the actual cooking time is 55 minutes. Fortunately, I caught that message in time, unfortunately, my pudding was still a bit runny. I let mine cook for a bit over an hour, and it still never thickened up the way it was supposed to. However, that didn't stop me from eating it. I think next time, I would probably cut back on the parboiling time, so that the rice releases more starch into the milk mixture to help it thicken better, similar to risotto.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TWD: Rugelach (Pictures coming soon)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is from Grace of Piggy's Cooking Journal. She chose for us to bake Rugelach from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Rugelach is a cream cheese dough-based crescent roll filled with jam, dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate. Dorie's recipe offers a lot of combinations of fruit and nuts to be used in the filling. I made a few changes that really made for a delicious Rugelach.

  • I used apricot jam to spread on the dough.
  • I used chopped almonds for the nuts in the filling.
  • I used dried cranberries instead of dried currants in the filling.
  • I added one tablespoon of orange zest to the filling.
  • I used white chocolate instead of bittersweet chocolate in the filling.

I really liked this Rugelach, and I will definitely make it again. The reason I don't have any pictures for this recipe is that I made the Rugelach a few weeks back, and the pictures are currently on my old computer, which is broken. Just a tip for everyone, make sure not trip on your powercord and break it off in the computer because Apple will want $400 to fix it. My computer was kind of old anyways, so instead of fixing it, I decided to buy a new MacBook, which I am loving. So until I am able to transfer all of my stuff off the old computer, I won't be able to post pictures. I will as soon as I can though! Either that, or I will just have to make them again. Be sure to check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll to see what all the other blogger's Rugelach recipes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins



It's October! So it's time for another pumpkin recipe. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is from Kelly at Sounding My Barbaric Gulp. She chose for us to make the Pumpkin Muffins from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. These muffins are very tender and moist with a cake-like texture. You can find the original recipe here. I made the following changes to the recipe to mix it up a bit (and also because I had these ingredients on hand).
  • I omitted the salt in the recipe and used salted butter instead.
  • I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins in the recipe.
  • I omitted the pecans.
  • I added the zest of one orange to the batter.
  • I made a simple glaze of orange juice and powder sugar for the top of the muffins (1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice).
  • I substituted the sunflower seed topping with sliced almonds, which I sprinkled on top of the orange glaze.
  • The baking time in the book says approximately 25 minutes.  My muffins were done in about 18 minutes, so be sure to watch them closely.


Notes: I really liked the flavor of these muffins. The pumpkin flavor isn't very prominent, but it is definitely there. The cranberries add a tart contrast to the sweet muffins, and the orange zest in the batter smells and tastes great. The muffins are definitely sweet enough on their own, and the glaze is not needed, but it is a nice touch. I only used a small amount of glaze on each muffin, spread in a thin layer, as to not make the muffins too sweet. I will definitely make these again. I would like to make a couple of different versions of this muffins. The original recipe calls for raisins, which would be nice, but I would also like to try dried cherries or chocolate chips as well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Low-Fat Pumpkin Apple Bread



Fall is my favorite time of year, and I was happy when I saw pumpkin recipes popping up on other blogs, so I decided to try one for myself. Along with pumpkins, apples are another one of my fall favorites, so I decided to make a pumpkin apple bread. I attended an Apple Butter Festival a few weeks ago, where they were making fresh apple butter on site. I purchased some of that apple butter, and I figured it would be a great substitute for the oil that is found in most quick breads. Even better, it makes the bread low-fat!


Low-Fat Pumpkin Apple Bread
-makes 2 9x5 loaves (I made one 9x5 loaf and three mini-loaves)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup apple butter
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or water
  • 2 cups apples, diced (I used Honey Crisp apples)
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your loaf pans.
-In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
-In a large mixing bowl, combine white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, apple butter, pumpkin, and water. Mix until just combined.
-Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat until just combined. Make sure not to over mix or the batter will become tough. Gently fold in the apples into the batter and pour into the prepared loaf pans. (If using the two 9x5 loaf pans, divide the batter equally between the two pans. For my loaves, I poured half the batter into the 9x5 loaf pan, and I divided the remaining half equally between the three mini-loaf pans.)
-Bake the 9x5 loaf (or loaves) for about 60 minutes and the mini-loaves for about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaves comes out clean. Let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack, before turning them out onto the wire rack to cool completely.


Notes: This is a really nice low-fat version of a quick bread. It is extremely moist, and not too sweet, you can't even tell that there is hardly any fat in the bread. If you prefer a sweeter bread, you could always add some more sugar. Neither the pumpkin flavor nor the apple butter flavor is too prominent, but the two flavors blend subtly together, and the apples add just the right amount of texture and tartness to the bread. A very simple, mildly spiced bread. A perfect fall treat that isn't too bad for you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower


I was never a huge fan of cauliflower. To me it was very bland, and it smelled when it was cooked, and the only way it tasted any good was when it was covered in mounds of cheese. That was, until I tried roasting it. Roasting it brings out the natural sweetness in the cauliflower. It takes on a different flavor that boiling it or steaming it can't do. And the great thing is that you can season it so many different ways. I have posted a few different options at the end of this recipe.


Roasted Cauliflower
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
-Remove the core of the cauliflower and slice into uniform pieces or divide into small florets. (I like to try and slice it because it provides more surface area for the cauliflower to brown and get crispy.)
-Spread the cauliflower out on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss the cauliflower to distribute the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
-Roast until the cauliflower is golden brown, crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle, about 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.


Options:
-Season with cumin, ground coriander, and smoked sweet or hot paprika for smoky Spanish flavored cauliflower.
-Season with curry powder and garam masala for Indian spiced cauliflower
-Add some garlic and crushed red pepper to the cauliflower before cooking for a spicy version of roasted cauliflower
-After roasting, add some grated parmesan cheese to the cauliflower

Monday, October 6, 2008

Potato-Tomato-Zucchini Gratin


This dish was made in an attempt to use up some of the vegetables I had around the house. My garden is slowing down, and I am trying to get the most out of my fresh vegetables before winter comes. The combination of potatoes with tomatoes and zucchini works really well together.


Potato-Tomato-Zucchini Gratin

Serves 4

  • 1 lb. red potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped, divided
  • salt and pepper

-Preheat the oven to 400 degreees.
-Heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the potatoes and onions, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until the potatoes and the onions are soft, but not fully cooked, about 7-10 minutes.
-Transfer the potato-onion mixture to a baking dish (I used a glass pie dish), and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 tablespoon each of oregano and thyme.


-Layer the tomatoes and zucchini on top of the potatoes and onions, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and herbs on top of the tomatoes and the zucchini.
-Bake until the zucchini and the tomatoes are soft, and the cheese is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.


Notes: This is a very simple dish to prepare, and it tastes great. Make sure to season the vegetables lightly with salt because the cheese is very salty. Also, you must make sure to cook the potatoes before adding them to the dish because they will take much longer to cook than the tomatoes or the zucchini.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD: Crème Brulée


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is from Mari at Mevrouw Cupcake. She chose for us to make one of my favorite desserts, Crème Brulée from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Crème Brulée literally means "burnt cream." It is a custard dessert that has a layer of caramelized sugar on top of it. You can find the complete recipe for this crème brulée here. It is a very simple recipe and is different than other recipes for crème brulée that I have read/tried. It is cooked at a very, very low temperature and doesn't employ the use of a water bath, which is nice. Fortunately I was given this crème brulée set a few years back for Christmas, so I didn't have to worry about trying to broil the sugar, I torched it instead (which is always fun).




The only change I made to the recipe is to substitute one of the teaspoons of vanilla called for in the recipe with one teaspoon of vanilla bean paste. It enhanced the vanilla flavor even more, and I just love seeing the bits of vanilla bean in the custard.




This is a very easy, elegant dessert. You can make it up to two days ahead, and just caramelize the sugar on top right before serving. Therefore it would be a great choice for dinner parties. The only thing I would do differently is possibly cook it a bit longer. I cooked my crème brulée for 60 minutes, and although the centers were set, it was a bit softer than I preferred. I would probably cook it for about 10 minutes more next time.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Baked Apple Oatmeal



Fall is my favorite time of year, and it is just around the corner. I attended the Country Applefest in Lebanon, Ohio, this weekend, and I purchased some apples and some fresh apple cider. I decided to make some baked apple oatmeal. I am a big fan of steel-cut (or Irish) oatmeal. The problem is that it takes about 30-40 minutes to cook on the stove, and I don't have that kind of time in the morning. The easiest thing to do is to make a big batch of it on Sunday, and then just reheat the oatmeal in the morning. Therefore, you can have steel cut oatmeal all week long. Steel cut oatmeal is great cooked on the stove top or, like I did here, baked in the oven. The nice thing about baking the oats in the oven is that you don't have to be standing over the stove the whole time the oatmeal is cooking. I adapted a recipe I found in one of my cookbooks called Moosewood Restaurant New Classics. It is a wonderful, mostly vegetarian, cookbook from the chefs of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. I can't recommend this cookbook enough.


Baked Apple Oatmeal
-serves 4
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups 2% or whole milk (or if you don't have apple cider, you can just use 3 1/2 cups milk)
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups apples, peeled and diced (I used one Gala and one Honey Crisp apple)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (only if you are not using the apple cider)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raisins, dried cherries, or dried cranberries (optional)
  • sliced almonds, extra cinnamon, additional milk (optional for serving)

-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
-In a small saucepan, heat the milk and the cider on medium to medium-low heat until very hot but not quite boiling. Stir occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching. The milk and cider will look like it is separating, just stir the mixture, and it will come back together.
-Stir in the oats, apples, sugar (if using), cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook for several minutes until the mixture returns to a near boil. Remove from heat and stir in the salt, vanilla, and dried fruit (if you are using it).
-Transfer the oatmeal to a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish, cover, and bake 30-40 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, and the oatmeal is creamy. Throughout the baking time, stir the oatmeal a few times to distribute the oats and prevent them from sticking to the sides of the casserole dish.
-Stir well before serving, and enjoy immediately. Serve with the additional cinnamon and milk, as well as the toasted almonds, if desired.
-Alternatively, the oatmeal can be cooled completely, and placed in the refrigerator to be enjoyed all week long. If you are eating the oatmeal the next day, you may need to add some milk or water to the oatmeal because it may have thickened overnight.


Notes: This is an excellent way to start the morning. Steel cut oats are nutty and chewy, and the cider and the apples add just the right amount of sweetness to the oatmeal. I didn't add the dried fruit to my oatmeal, but I think they would be a great addition.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen by Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl. This challenge was a first for the Daring Bakers. This challenge was vegan, and the bakers also had the option of making the dish gluten free. Our challenge was to make lavash crackers, a crisp Armenian-style cracker, and a vegan accompaniment. That's it. We were given a lot of freedom to make whatever dip/topping/salsa/relish that we wanted, just as long as it was vegan. I liked the idea of this challenge a lot. I had never made crackers before, and I had been meaning to make some homemade hummus for a while. The recipe for the lavash is courtesy of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The hummus I chose to make was a Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. I adapted the recipe from descent into dessert. I had some red peppers from my garden, so it was a perfect choice, and it goes great with the crackers. Also, be sure to check out The Daring Bakers Blogroll to see what other Daring Bakers did with this recipe.



For the crackers:
-Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers
-This recipe provides directions for making both traditional (with all-purpose flour) and gluten-free crackers, so pay close attention to the directions. I made the traditional crackers.

  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
  • 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
  • 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
  • Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed. (I needed all of the water to bring my dough together.)

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see How to Determine if Bread Dough Has Been Mixed Long Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing). (My dough took about 2 hours to double in size.)

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.



For the hummus:
-makes about 2 cups

  • 2 red peppers stemmed, halved, seeded, and deveined
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed an drained
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • juice from a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or sambal olek
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chives, snipped

First, roast the peppers. Preheat the broiler. Place the pepper halves, cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast the peppers until the skin is charred, remove from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the peppers steam at least 10 minutes. Remove the chard skins from the peppers.

Place the roasted red peppers and the next 8 ingredients in a food processor and blend until the desired consistency is reached. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle the snipped chives on top. (Can be made the day ahead, and placed in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend).


Final thoughts:
I really liked the crackers. The dough was very easy to make, and the instructions were easy to follow. I seasoned my crackers with a mixture of cumin, kosher salt, and paprika. I think it is important to roll the dough very thinly or you will not get the desired crispiness for a cracker. Alternatively, I think this recipe would be good for a flat bread if the dough was rolled out thicker. Make sure that you pay close attention to the baking time. At 15 minutes the crackers were still very light in color, but by 20 minutes, the they were beginning to burn. I had pre-cut my crackers into long triangles, and the shorter ends were turning dark brown. The crackers were thin and crispy and had a really nice flavor. I would definitely make them again because they are a easy to make, and a nice change to store bought crackers.

I liked the hummus also. It had a really nice flavor. However, the consistency was a little off, and I just couldn't get the hummus to be as smooth as I wanted it to be. The hummus appeared to still have bits of chickpea and garlic in it. I think next time I make hummus I will roast the garlic first to mellow out the flavor. My food processer is very old, so I think that might have been a factor as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Panzanella



I love fresh bakery bread, but it rarely stays fresh longer than a couple of days. I usually don't have time to eat it all before it goes stale. I bought a rosemary and olive oil loaf a few days ago and instead of throwing it out, I decided to make a panzanella salad. Panzanella is a salad make up of fresh veggies and toasted bread cubes. I found a recipe for panzanella on The Food Network from The Barefoot Contessa. I scaled down the recipe and made a few slight changes. This salad is really delicious and fresh. It's a great end of the summer salad.


Panzanella
3-4 servings

For the salad:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups stale bread, cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup seedless cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 large basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)

For the viniagrette:
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  • For the vinaigrette, whisk the garlic, mustard, and vinegar together. Slowly add the olive oil, constantly whisking until it is all incorporated. Mix in the salt and pepper.
  • In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. If needed reseason with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
  • Before serving shave desired amount of Parmesan cheese on top of the salad. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TWD: Dimply Plum Cake




This week's Tuesdays with Dorie is from Michelle at Bake-En. She chose for us to make the Dimply Plum Cake from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. It is a simple orange scented coffee cake batter with plum halves nestled into the batter. You can find the exact recipe here.


The substitutions I made were as followed:

  • I used salted butter instead of unsalted butter and just omitted the salt that was called for in the recipe
  • I omitted the cardamom and instead added 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the batter
  • The original recipe indicates to use 8 plums and to place them 4x4 in the square pan. I guess I had large plums because I could only fit 3 plums in my pan, 2x3.



Notes:

The cake smelled wonderful while baking, my whole house filled with the smell of cinnamon. I baked my cake for 38 minutes even though the recipe calls for 40 minutes, and it seemed a bit over done, so you might want to check on the cake about 35 minutes into baking. The batter is very thick, and I had a hard time spreading the batter into the pan, so I coated a spatula with non-stick spray, and it seemed to make it easier.

This cake was very simple to make, and I really liked it. The cinnamon and ginger tasted great in the batter and went well with the plums. I would make this again with other fruits like peaches, pears, or apples. Next time I would probably slice the fruit and place it on top the batter instead of just placing the halves of the fruit into the batter. It is difficult to take a bite of the cake without taking the whole half of the fruit with you.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup




In order to use up a lot of tomatoes from my garden, and at my dad's request, I decided to make tomato-basil soup. I found a good recipe for this soup over at the For Love of Cooking blog. Pam has a lot of good recipes and this is no exception. I made a few adjustments because I was working with fresh tomatoes instead of canned. I doubled the recipe, so this makes a whole stock pot worth of soup. I plan on freezing a lot for the winter.


For the tomatoes:
  • 16 cups of ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Chop the tomatoes (if using cherry tomatoes, just leave them whole) and divide between two 9x13 glass baking dishes. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over each dish and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for approximately 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

For the soup:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth (I use chicken)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 teaspoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
  • salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, non-reactive soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft. Add garlic and stir for 30-45 seconds before adding chicken (or vegetable) broth, bay leaves, sugar, balsamic vinegar, roasted tomatoes and their juice. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Pour soup through a strainer to remove any chunks (optional). Mix in the fresh basil. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately, or let cool completely, transfer to containers and freeze to enjoy later.


Notes: This soup tastes surprisingly like Campbell's Tomato Soup. I had it with a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, and it was great. Since I was working with fresh, very ripe tomatoes, the soup was quite acidic. I had to add more sugar than the original recipe calls for, but depending on what type of tomatoes you use, you might not need that much sugar. I added one teaspoon at a time and simmered for a bit, re-tasted, and added more until I achieved the right balance. This is a great way to use up a large amount of tomatoes. Also, if you are using fresh tomatoes, I highly recommend straining the soup because there are so many seeds and skins in the soup that it makes the texture before straining the soup unappealing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Salmon with Creamy Horseradish Sauce


I am learning a lot from this blogging experience. When I cook, I usually just throw things in the pot or pan that I know will taste good together without bothering to measure anything. I have started writing down my original recipes, or when I make changes to a recipe, I make sure to note what I am changing. It has been a good experience for me. Another thing I am learning is how to photograph food to make it look appealing. I am still learning, and the lighting in my house and my camera are not the best, but I am trying. I still haven't learned how to photograph fish to make it look good. Especially fish with sauce on top of it. I must have taken 20 photos of the fish, and this one was the best of the bunch if you can believe it. The fish was absolutely fantastic though, so that is what matters.

This recipe is adapted from bonappetit.com. I wasn't able to grill the fish like the recipe calls for, but I pan-fried it instead, and it turned out great. Pan-frying it created a nice crispy crust on the fish. I also made a few changes to the sauce, which is a great accompaniment to the fish.


Serves 4

Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons prepared white horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chives, snipped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • salt and pepper

Fish:

  • Non-stick vegetable spray
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon prepared white horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each)

For sauce:

Mix all the ingredients together, season with salt a pepper. Cover and chill. Can be made a day ahead. (I seasoned with a little extra soy sauce instead of salt, not much, about a teaspoon or so.)

For salmon:

Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Spray a skillet liberally with non-stick cooking spray. Whisk oil, horseradish, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush over both sides of the fish. If the salmon has skin, place the salmon skin side up in the pan. Cook the salmon until opaque in the center, about 3-5 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the fillet. I had tail pieces of salmon so it was only about 3 minutes per side until my fish was done. If I would have had center cut fillet it would have been about 4-5 minutes per side. Serve the fish immediately with the sauce.






Sunday, September 7, 2008

Creamy Red Cabbage Cole Slaw



I harvested my first head of red cabbage from my garden recently, and I decided to make cole slaw for a family gathering. For years, I didn't eat cole slaw. I always found it to be overly sweet. But recently I have began to try different versions, and it has really grown on me. I especially love cole slaw on top a pulled pork barbecue sandwich. Just delicious. This is a recipe for a very simple, mild cole slaw. It's not too sweet and not to vinegary. Feel free to play with the amounts of mayonnaise or vinegar or sugar to adjust to your own personal taste. For the size of my head of cabbage, these were the right amounts to coat the cabbage and carrots without being too heavy. I don't like when all you can taste is mayonnaise and not the vegetables.


  • 1 large head of cabbage, outer leaves and core removed, coarsely chopped (I planted red cabbage this year, but green cabbage would work as well)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 sour cream (or light sour cream)
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • Juice from 1 lemon (or 1/2 lemon if you don't want the sauce to be tart)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used non-fat milk)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • salt and pepper
-In one bowl mix the cabbage and carrots together.
-In a separate bowl mix the next seven ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.
-Adjust seasonings to your own personal taste and add enough of the sauce to the cabbage and carrots to just coat the vegetables. Depending on the size of your cabbage head and carrots, you may not need all of the sauce, so add large spoonfuls one at a time and mix thoroughly until you reach the desired consistency of your coleslaw. I found using tongs to distribute the sauce works very well without damaging the texture of the cabbage and the carrots.
-Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors blend. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fresh Tomato Salsa (Pico de Gallo)


Making fresh salsa is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to use up all of those tomatoes that are ready to be picked from your garden this time of year.


Yield: About 2 to 2 1/2 cups salsa
  • 8-10 Roma tomatoes, chopped (I used 7 Roma tomatoes and one large yellow tomato)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, finely diced (depending on how hot you like your salsa)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

-Simply mix the first six ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the salsa sit for at least an hour in the refrigerator to let the flavors blend together. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

-This salsa should last at least 2-3 days in the refrigerator, I am not sure about longer amounts of time because it always gets eaten before then.

-This salsa is very versatile. It could be used as a topping for chicken, steak, or fish. You could add black beans and corn to the salsa to make a great side dish, or you could blend the salsa and pass it through a fine mesh strainer to make a very flavorful tomato juice. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters



This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection is from Stephany of Proceed with Caution. She chose for us to bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters. You can find the complete recipe here. This a very simple oatmeal cookie recipe with peanut butter and chocolate chips added to the batter. The original recipe states that it will make 60 cookies, I definitely don't need that many cookies around the house, so I halved the recipe.

The main problems I read that other people were having with the recipe was that the peanut butter flavor was too subtle, the cinnamon flavor was too prominent, and the cookies spread out too much while baking. These were the substitutions I made to the halved recipe.

-I reduced the butter amount by 2 tablespoons and added 2 extra tablespoons of peanut butter.
-I halved the amount of white sugar in the recipe, because with the extra peanut butter I did not want the cookies to be too sweet.
-I also eliminated the nutmeg and reduced the amount of cinnamon the recipe called for by half.
-The halved recipe makes about 25 cookies.


Notes: These cookies turned out great. The cookies took about 15 minutes total to bake, and they didn't spread out too much while baking. The peanut butter flavor in the cookie was just the right amount, not too much at all. These cookies are very dense and rich. You can't eat more than one or two at a time. I think this particular recipe is a good twist on the chocolate chip cookie.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Éclairs




Along with Tuesdays with Dorie, I have become a member of another online baking group called The Daring Bakers. The Daring Bakers was started in November 2006 by Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. They began by making pretzels from scratch, using the same recipe, then blogging about it. Next month they made biscotti, and they were joined by a few more bloggers. Month by month the list of participants grew, and each month there is a new challenge. This month is Chocloate Éclairs. This recipe was chosen by Tony Tahhan of Olive Juice and Meeta K of What's for Lunch Honey?. I love chocolate éclairs, but never made them. They always seemed so complicated, but that is what the Daring Bakers Challenge is for! Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers blogroll to see the other baker's recipes.



Chocolate Éclairs
(makes 20-24 éclairs)

This recipe is derived from a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan: Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé

Éclairs consist of 3 elements:
- Cream Puff Dough, aka Pâte à Choux or Choux Pastry
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate glaze


Cream Puff Dough


-½ cup whole milk
-½ cup water
-1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
-¼ teaspoon sugar
-¼ teaspoon salt
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-5 large eggs, at room temperature


-Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

-In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

-Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

-Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs. (I just used a pastry bag with no tip on it, and it achieved the same effect)

-Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Notes:
-Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

-You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.


Pastry Cream


- 2 cups whole milk
-4 large egg yolks
-6 tbsp sugar
-3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
-2½ tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

-In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

-Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

- Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).

-Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth. (I divided the pastry cream into two bowls. To one bowl I added 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste to make a vanilla pastry cream, and to the other bowl I added a teaspoon of instant coffee that had been dissolved in 1 tablespoon heavy cream to make a coffee pastry cream.)

-Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Notes:

-The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

-In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

-Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.


Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup)

-1/3 cup heavy cream
-3½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
-4 tsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
-7 tbsp Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

-In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

-Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Notes:
-If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

-It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.


Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups)

-4½ oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
-1 cup water
-½ cup crème fraîche, or heavy cream
-1/3 cup sugar

-Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

-It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Notes:
-You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.

-This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.


Assembling the éclairs:

-Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

-The glaze should be barely warm to the touch. Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

-Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:
-If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

-The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.


Final Thoughts:
-I thought that these éclairs were good, but not great. Both the pastry dough and the pastry cream both seemed a bit too eggy. The pastry dough didn't seem dry or crispy enough for my liking, perhaps I should have baked the éclairs longer. I also had a few problems with some of my éclairs falling once I took them out of the oven, only a few, so no big deal. However, even though the recipe is quite long, it was not to complicated. I look forward to next month's challenge!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pasta with Kalamata Olives, Capers, and Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce


I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine. I scaled down the recipe and added a few extra ingredients that I had on hand. The original recipe calls for some toasted pine nuts. They would work really well in this dish, I just didn't have any at the time. This is a very flavorful dish that goes great with a glass of crisp white wine.


Serves 3-4

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
8 oz, short pasta (such as farfalle, rotini, gemelli, etc.)
3 Tablespoons pitted Katamala olives, halved
2 Tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

-Preheat the oven to 375 degress F
-Combine the tomatoes, oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and crushed red pepper in an 8x8 glass baking dish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes are tender, about 45 minutes total. About about halfway through the roasting time, add the zucchini to the tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Once the mixture is removed from the oven stir in oregano and parsley. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
-Cook pasta in a pot of salted water according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Add tomato-zucchini mixture, olives, and capers. Stir over medium heat until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the feta cheese and stir until creamy, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.


Notes: This is a very simple, flavorful pasta dish. Make sure not to over season the tomato-zucchini mixture because all of the other ingredients (olives, capers, and feta) are quite salty.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Summer Vegetable Medley


I am going to apologize in advance, but over the next three or four weeks, the majority of my recipes are most likely going to include either zucchini or tomatoes, or both. It is that time of year, and my garden is overflowing with both. I don't mind, but it's all I have been cooking (and freezing) lately. Pretty soon my peppers, eggplants, and cabbages will all be ready for picking, but until then, it is zucchini and tomato recipes.

Summer Vegetable Medley

serves 4

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced into half moons
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups corn, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons chives, snipped
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons mild goat cheese


-Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat
-Add the red onion and saute until soft, about 3-4 minutes
-Add the zucchini, tomatoes, and corn to the skillet and cook until the zucchini and tomatoes are soft and the corn is heated through, about 6-8 minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper
-Remove from heat and stir in the fresh parsley and chives
-Transfer to a serving bowl and crumble the goat cheese on top of the vegetables, serve immediately


Notes: This is a delicious side dish. It is so quick and easy, and the goat cheese adds a nice flavor to the vegetables. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TWD: Granola Grabbers


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection is from Michelle of Bad Girl Baking. She chose for us to bake these chewy little cookies called Granola Grabbers from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.. These cookies are a mix of granola, dried fruit and nuts. I made numerous substitutions because I had a lot of similar ingredients at home, therefore I wanted to those ingredients up before buying new ones, and besides, granola, dried fruit, and nuts can be quite expensive. I have listed the substitutions below, but I encourage you to check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll to see what other bloggers did with their cookies.

I made the following substitutions to my cookies

-I omitted the coconut because, well...I hate coconut
-I substituted dried tart cherries for the raisins and cashews for the peanuts because I had these ingredients on hand.
-I reduced the sugar in the recipe to 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3 Tablespoons white sugar because the granola I used was initially quite sweet.
-I also added 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract to the cookie mix.


Notes: The cookies are cruchy and chewy at the same time. They go great with a glass of milk, and I would definitely make them again. I liked the substitutions I made, but I am sure they would be great with raisins and peanuts as well. I am glad that I reduced the amount of sugar that was called for in the original recipe because the cookies were just sweet enough.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Homemade Roasted Tomato Sauce

Everyday I am picking handfuls of tomatoes from my garden. I have been quite busy lately, so I wanted to find a way to preserve all of these tomatoes and not let them go to waste. This, I am sure, is the first in a long line of tomato dishes. I adapted this recipe for Homemade Roasted Tomato Sauce from Cuisine at Home magazine. The have a collection of Pasta recipes available. I really love this magazine, nearly every recipe in every issue looks delicious.


Yield: About 3 1/2 cups

-8 cups fresh tomatoes, quartered (I used a mixture from my garden of cherry, Roma, and beefsteak tomatoes)
-1 cup onion, chopped
-4 garlic cloves, smashed
-1/3 cup olive oil
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-2 Tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
-1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
-1/2 Tablespoon Italian seasoning


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
-Combine all ingredients (except the basil, oregano, and Italian seasoning) in a large baking dish. Roast 45 minutes, mix in the fresh herbs, then pulse in a food processor to desired consistency. (Using a slotted spoon, I transferred the roasted tomato/onion/garlic mixture to a bowl with high sides, added the herbs, and blended using my immersion blender.)
-Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. (I found that I didn't need any other seasoning, it was perfect the way it was)




Notes: This is really good. The roasting of the tomatoes really brings out their natural flavor. I used less olive oil than the recipe originally called for (1/2 cup). It just seemed like too much to me. The tomatoes I used generated a large amount of juice. I didn't want to blend the mixture like that because I was afraid that it would be too runny. Therefore, I used a slotted spoon and transferred the mixture to a bowl in order to eliminate most of that juice. The consistency was just right for me this way. I will be making this recipe again. I want to be able to freeze some of this sauce so I will be able to enjoy it all winter long.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fettuccine with Zucchini Ribbons





Due to my novice gardening skills, I planted way to many zucchini seeds, so now I am looking for unique recipes to use up all the zucchini that I am picking on a daily basis. I have already frozen about 30 cups of shredded zucchini for making bread, and I want to eat as much as I can of it while it is fresh. I found this recipe for Fettucine with Squash Ribbons while listening to an NPR podcast. It seemed like an interesting way to try zucchini, and I always love pasta dishes.



Serves 4

-12 oz whole-wheat or regular fettuccine
-1 package (4 links) fully cooked chicken sausage (I used sun-dried tomato chicken sausage), sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch slices
-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
-3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
-3 medium zucchini, trimmed, skins removed, and peeled into thin strips (I just used a vegetable peeler to do this, I peeled around the zucchini until I reached the seeds, there is a video in the NPR article that demonstrates how to do this)
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
-1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
-Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

-Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add fettuccine and cook according to the package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water and drain.
-Meanwhile, add one tablespoon of olive oil to a non-stick skillet and heat to medium. Add the chicken sausage and cook, until golden brown on each side. Remove from skillet and transfer sausage to a plate to rest.
-Add the other table of olive oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes, or until the skin has softened, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add crushed red pepper if desired. Deglaze skillet with about 1/4 cup of reserved pasta-cooking water, loosening any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat.
-Off the stove, add the zucchini ribbons to the empty pasta pot, followed by the tomato mixture, the drained pasta, the sliced chicken sausage, and one tablespoon each of basil, parsley, and oregano. Toss well to combine. If the pasta appears dry, add enough of the reserved cooking water to coat the pasta so it looks moist, but not wet.
-Divide among 4 bowls or transfer to one large serving bowl. Using a vegetable peeler shave thin strips of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the pasta. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and parsley, and serve immediately.



Notes:

This is a very light pasta dish, and a great summer meal. The zucchini ribbons blend well with the pasta, and add a nice contrast in texture. There is hardly any sauce so make sure to season the dish well. Also, this dish is perfect with some crusty bread to soak up the tomato broth that is created by the addition of the reserved pasta water.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

TWD: Black-and-White Banana Loaf



This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection is from Ashlee of A Year in the Kitchen. She chose for us to bake the Black-and-White Banana Loaf from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. You can find the complete recipe here. The changes I made were omitting the lemon juice, lemon zest, and dark rum, as well as using 2 ripe bananas instead of 1 1/2 bananas called for in the original recipe . Ashlee used 2 oz. of chocolate in her recipe. The original recipe calls for 3 oz. of chocolate, which is what I used.


Notes: This was a good selection for me this week because I always have extra ripe bananas on hand for making bread. If I have extra bananas that I don't eat before they become overripe, I simply pop them in the freezer and thaw just before I am about to use them. I baked my bread for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. I had to cover the bread with foil about an hour and ten minutes into baking because it was starting to turn too brown. This bread was very dense and moist and the chocolate and banana flavor wasn't one I expected to like, but it is really good. I used 70% cacao Godiva chocolate, and it works well. This is definitely one I will make again. It goes perfectly with a cup of coffee, so I know what I am having for breakfast tomorrow!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Individual Pineapple Upside Down Cakes




My dad is a huge Pineapple Upside-Down Cake fan, and ever since I mentioned that I saw this recipe at Allrecipes.com, he has been requesting that I make them for him. It is a very simple recipe using a boxed cake mix, that can be whipped up very quickly.

Serves 12
Adapted from Allrecipes.com

-2/3 cup packed brown sugar
-1/3 cup butter, melted
-2 (20 ounce) cans sliced pineapple (in 100% pineapple juice), juice reserved
-1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
-3 large eggs
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-12 maraschino cherries, halved (if desired)


Directions

-In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter. Spoon into 24 muffin cups that have been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. (I used about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons per muffin cup.)
-Drain pineapple, reserving the juice. Trim pineapple to fit the muffin cups; place one ring in each cup. (I cut about 1/4 of the pineapple ring out and reshaped the pineapple slice into a ring and placed them into the muffin cups. Each can of pineapple only had 10 slices in them, so for the extra muffin cups I placed 2-3 pieces in each muffin cup of the pineapple that I had cut out of the other rings.)
-In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil and 1-1/4 cups of the reserved pineapple juice; beat with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Spoon over pineapple, filling each cup 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in to middle of the cake comes out clean.
-Immediately invert onto wire racks to cool. Place a cherry in the center of each pineapple ring. (I used a wire rack set over a baking sheet because some of the sugar mixture will drip through the rack onto the counter otherwise.)



Notes: These are very cute, and a good idea for a party. Be careful because the sugar and pineapple mixture is very hot, therefore you must make sure that the cakes separate from the muffin tins when you invert them. It would be a good idea to run a knife around the muffin cups before turning them out onto your wire rack. I say this because one of them stuck in there for me, and when I lifted the pan it fell onto my foot and burned it pretty bad (That's what I get for baking barefoot). No permanent damage, but I wouldn't want that to happen to anyone else. Also, I had some extra cake batter left over, so I just placed in a mini bundt cake pan and baked it along side the muffin tins.