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.


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.


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


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.

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


  • 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.


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


  • 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


  • 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.