December 29, 2008

Baked Brie

These may not be the most appealing pictures but this is so so good.  I know it's anything but healthy, but it was the holidays...?

This is also so easy to make and you can do just about any combination of fillings you want from sweet to savory.  I have seen many a baked brie done with preserves inside but my favorite combo is brown sugar, dried fruit and nuts. 

Mine sort of exploded a little this time but there was no mess because I cooked it in the aluminum pan from the frozen pie crust.  It was warm, slightly sweet, slightly salty, buttery and delicious.  It's really difficult not to eat the whole thing.

Baked Brie
Ingredients

1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp dried cherries, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp slivered almonds, crumbled
1 wedge double or triple cream brie (I like to use the wedges instead of rounds because they have less rind)
1 frozen pie crust or puff pastry

Preparation
Preheat oven as directed on frozen pie crust of pastry box.  Take frozen pie crust/ pastry out of the freezer to defrost.  Chop dried cherries and put them in a small bowl with brown sugar and almonds.  Mix together.  Cut brie in half lengthwise and sprinkle half the brown sugar mixture onto the inside of the brie.  Cover with other half. (This is optional but I like to to it because it allows the filling to be distributed throughout the brie).  Sprinkle half remaining filling over the bottom of defrosted crust/ pastry, place brie on crust and sprinkle remaining filling on top.  Fold crust over brie so all is covered.  Cook as directed on the back of frozen pie crust or puff pastry.

December 27, 2008

Citrus Salad with Star Anise Syrup

Yum yum yum yum yum.  This is a great way to use seasonal winter fruits.  It's simple, the ingredients list is short, but also complex because of the star anise.  Plus it makes for quite a pretty presentation.  However, I will say that cutting all of the fruit away from the pith is rather time consuming and difficult... but then again I don't think my cutting skills are all that.

So I don't like Sambuca or those black licorice flavored jelly beans but I do enjoy a hint of anise.  I actually think this salad could have used more.  I only made half but used the full amount of star anise plus an extra.  

The way I feel about anise and licorice flavor in general kind of reminds me of the way I feel about fennel.  I unknowingly tried a piece of raw fennel at my friend's Christmas party a few years back and was extremely put off by the flavor, which made me think I hated fennel.  But recently I've realized it's a great spice to add to meat dishes or stews and is one of the delicious spices often used in sausage.  So basically I've concluded that subtlety and pairing is the key.  Some things you don't like as a main ingredient or by themselves can actually be great when used in smaller amounts or combined with something different.  So don't write something off if you don't like it one way because it may be phenomenal another.

P.S.- When I was in China this summer I had edamame that was boiled in water flavored with star anise and it was a delicious and unlikely combination.  I have yet to try it at home though.

Citrus Salad with Star Anise Syrup
From Gourmet

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 5 large ruby red or pink grapefruit
  • 4 blood oranges

Preparation

Dissolve sugar in water in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring. Add star anise and simmer 5 minutes. Let stand off heat 30 minutes.

Cut peel, including white pith, from fruit with a sharp knife. Cut segments free from membranes into a bowl. Squeeze juice from membranes into bowl.

Add syrup with star anise to fruit and juice and stir gently. Remove star anise before serving if desired.

*Can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.

December 25, 2008

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread

Another ginger dessert? I'm not sick of them yet because I only ate one of the gingersnaps and gave the rest away as holiday gifts.  Anyway, what's more Christmas-y than gingerbread?  

I searched epicurious for too long on Christmas Eve looking for the perfect dark, soft, sticky and spicy gingerbread recipe and this is it.  I followed some of the reviewers' comments and reduced the white sugar by 1/3 cup, added 1 tsp. more cinnamon, used cocoa powder instead of flour on one of my pans and did half applesauce half oil.  Also, this recipe is usually made using one bundt pan but I like my gingerbread in squares, so I separated the batter into two 8 x 8 brownie pans.

It came out so well.  It was super moist and had a sticky caramelized sugar crust covering the top and sides.  The original recipe says to serve it with powdered sugar and unsweetened whipped cream but I think it tastes great with a little vanilla ice cream... what doesn't?

When I ate this I also had it with a piece of chocolate cake my mom made.  I mixed the two together on my fork and loved it.  Has anyone thought of chocolate gingerbread yet?  I think it would taste amazing.  Maybe next Christmas...

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
Adapted from Gourmet*

Ingredients
  • 1 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout (I used Guinness Stout)
  • 1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar (I used light)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/8 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/8 cup vegetable oil

This gingerbread is better if made 1 day ahead and will keep three days covered and stored at room temperature. 

*my changes are included in the ingredients and preparation.  Click the "Gourmet" link to see the original recipe.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter two 8 x 8 brownie pans and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in applesauce, oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Divide batter evenly between pans and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles (oops I did not do this). Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 35 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack, cool completely and cut into squares.

December 21, 2008

The Best Gingersnaps and a Note on Gift Wrapping

I first tried these gingersnaps about a year ago at a lunch at my friend Thom's house.  He invited a few friends over to his parents house for a lunch/ get together before the holidays and his mom had prepared tons of sweets, one of which was these gingersnaps.  I thought they were so good I asked for the recipe and unlike my mom (who doesn't really like sharing her recipes), his mom was more than happy to.  In fact, this recipe was selected, along with nine others to be included in a holiday magazine put out by one of the local grocery stores.

Aside from being delicious, these cookies are also really easy to make and always come out well.  Crunchy on the outside and coated with raw sugar and chewy in the middle with tiny pieces of crystalized ginger.  You really can't go wrong (er, except for the fact that they are made with Crisco... but they are so good...).  I actually can't stand crystalized ginger or any ginger for that matter by itself, but in these cookies, it's delicious.  

Here's a photograph of the boxes of cookies I sent my boyfriend's family for the holidays.  I included another picture in my post about madeleines.  Anyway, if you love baking, homemade cookies, candies or anything always makes a great holiday gift.  I think people, especially those who don't bake, love getting things like this because it shows you put a good amount of time, energy and thought into their gift.  It's also a lot more personal than just going to the store and buying something.  You can make them look really professional.

I used some old Sephora boxes my mom saved and covered the logo with these pretty Paris stick-on labels.  Then I lined the inside with a layer of festive tissue paper and some plastic wrap so the cookies would stay fresh.  Finally, I used colorful ribbon to seal and decorate the boxes.

Helen's Gingersnaps
From Helen Wall

Ingredients
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 finely chopped crystalized ginger
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter flavored solid shortening (I used Crisco even though it grosses me out*)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses (I used dark)
1/2 cup raw sugar

Preparation
Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in crystalized ginger and set aside. In a large mixer bowl beat sugar and shortening at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and molasses.  Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just combined. Cover and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls, each about 1 tbsp. and roll in raw sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined (lining them is not really necessary) baking sheets.  Bake at 375 degrees until cookies crack, about 10 minutes. Let cool and store in airtight containers.

*I feel like I should try these with regular butter to see if there is any difference because I really hate using something as unnatural as Crisco as an ingredient.  If anyone makes these using regular butter, let me know how they turn out!

December 19, 2008

No Knead Bread

So here is another instance of me not being original.  I feel like almost everyone who has a food blog has tried this, if not posted about it.  But I had to.  It came out looking so perfect, so professional, I was almost astonished I had made it.  And it was so so easy but it did take quite a lot of time, about 21 hours of rising, yep, that's almost a day.  Oh and those nice looking marks on the top of the bread, I wish I could take credit for them but it just happened.  I just dropped a lump of flour, water, hardly any yeast and salt into a pot and this is what came out. Crazy.

Here is a link to the original recipe of no knead, which uses all white flour.  The only change I made from that was to use half white and half whole wheat to get a heartier, healthier bread.  I also used oat bran and a little bit of flour to coat the bread, if you were wondering what those little specs were.  But there are many other modifications you can make as this article by Mark Bittman discusses.  So I'm not going to post the recipe because it's all over the place, just follow the link and in about 24 hours you'll be able to enjoy great bread too.

December 18, 2008

Peppermint Bark

This year I thought I had come up with a great idea: to make my own peppermint bark.  But it turns out that everyone else already seems to have had that idea because I've seen recipes for it on countless blogs and websites.  Oh well.  Anyway, it's still an easy alternative to buying the stuff for $20 at places like Williams Sonoma and it tastes just as good... maybe better.

I added an extra layer of finely crushed peppermint in-between the dark and white chocolate layer for extra crunch.  You could also flavor the dark or white chocolate with peppermint extract if you want even more peppermint flavor.

My bark turned out a bit marbled because the white chocolate I used didn't melt to the same consistency as the dark; instead it turned into more of a paste, which required more spreading.  So even though I had refrigerated and hardened the dark chocolate before I put the white over top, the spreading I had to do melted some of the dark chocolate and I got a marbled finish.  It still looks ok though and the taste was not effected at all.

You can use any kind of chocolate you want, just make sure it's something you would want to eat plain since this isn't going to be melted and put into a cake or chopped and added to cookies.  Also aside from peppermint you could add pretty much anything you want to chocolate bark.  I was thinking about doing a dark chocolate, dried cherry and sliced almond one as well but then got a bit lazy. 

Peppermint Bark
Ingredients

2 bars dark chocolate broken into chunks (I like to use 70%)
1* bar white chocolate (Lindt or Ghiradelli work well)
3- 4 medium candy canes crushed

1 cookie sheet
1 sheet parchment paper or a silpat baking mat

*I like a thinner white layer because I don't like white chocolate as much, but you could do even amounts

Preparation

Place candy canes in a freezer safe plastic bag (the plastic on freezer bags is thicker and can withstand the candy cane pieces' sharp edges).  Use a rolling pin or mallet to smash the candy canes into small pieces. Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler.  After all the chocolate is melted pour it onto a parchment covered baking sheet.  You can pour it all in one spot, then spread it into the desired shape with a spatula.  Take about 1/3 of the candy cane pieces and sprinkle evenly over the dark chocolate.  Refrigerate until hard. About 15- 20 minutes.

5 minutes before you take out the dark chocolate begin melting the white in a double boiler.  Once the white is melted take the hardened dark chocolate out of the fridge and pour the white the white over, spread lightly as needed to cover the dark chocolate evenly.  (Hopefully you have better luck than me, but marbled bark is... artistic?) Once the white is spread, sprinkle the remaining candy cane bits evenly over top.  Place back in the refrigerator to harden. 

Once hard cut the bark into uneven chunks with a sharp knife.  It is probably best to store it in the refrigerator after it is cut.

December 17, 2008

Perfect Madeleines

This is the first time I've made madeleines.  My mom bought a pan for them last summer but since I am so rarely home I haven't had a chance to try it out.  But now it's winter break and with a month off from school I have plenty of time for baking.  Plus baked goods are the perfect gift, especially since I love making them.  These cookies are wonderful to give away because they always look gorgeous thanks to the sea shell shaped molds they are baked in. 

My mom has a recipe for coconut madeleines and as much as I love coconut the flavor isn't really what I'm in the mood for around the holidays.  I found this recipe on 101 Cookbooks and it looked perfect.  Simple, flavorful and reliable. Heidi says her friend Lahna has been using this recipe for years.  

And it was everything I expected it to be.  The flavors were subtle but definitely present and the cookie seemed both light and rich at the same time.  I think the browned butter really adds to these.  Also, madeleines are great because they are a nice in-between.  Not quite a cookie and not quite a cupcake.  They make a lovely snack with a nice hot cup of black tea.

Madeleines
Adapted from  101 Cookbooks
Makes 2- 3 dozen

Ingredients
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used bleached)
4 large eggs
a pinch of salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

extra butter for greasing pan
extra flour for pan
powdered sugar for sprinkling

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat until brown and nutty smelling, about 20 mins.  Strain with a paper towel or mesh strainer to get ride of solids (I was getting rid of burned crusty bits- ew). Cool butter to room temperature and work on the rest of the recipe as the butter cools.

Grease pan, make sure to get all of the ridges, then flour.  Put eggs and salt in a bowl and beat until thick (double or triple the volume you started with) about 3 minutes with an electric mixer.  I did this by hand so it took a bit longer.  Continue mixing and add the sugar in a steady stream.  Whip for 2 minutes or until mixture is thick and ribbony.  Next fold in lemon zest and vanilla until just combined.

Sprinkle in the flour and fold to combine.  Then fold in the butter mixture only stirring to bring everything together.  (I am compulsive over-mixer so recipes like this are always tough for me)

Pour the batter into a liquid measuring cup such as a pyrex and then pour into madeleine molds until 2/3- 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 12- 14 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.  Unmold immediately after removing from the oven.  Cool on racks and dust with powdered sugar.

December 16, 2008

Easy Homemade Hummus and a Light Lunch

I started making my own hummus about 2 years ago when I realized how simple and how much more cost efficient it is.  Also, when you make it yourself you can control how much oil and other flavorings you put in.  Before, when I made hummus I used to reserve some of the water from the canned garbanzo beans and add that to the hummus to thin it.  But recently (aka today) I've started adding water instead and I think it makes a pretty big difference; no more of the unpleasant can-like flavor I just couldn't seem to pinpoint before.  Anyway this took about 5 minutes to make.  All you need is a good blender or Cuisinart and you're set.

Below is the pita sandwich I made for lunch.  I just started liking olives (I know, what is wrong with me?) but I have always loved cucumbers.  They are so light, crisp and always wonderfully fresh tasting so they make a great sandwich filler.  I also think they go really well with hummus and olives because they help balance out the strong flavors and somewhat heavy texture that both provide.  

I think this sandwich would also be great with chopped roasted red peppers, feta or white beans in addition to the cucumbers, olives and hummus.


Easy Homemade Hummus
Ingredients

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1- 2 tbsp water

paprika for sprinkling on top
lemon wedge

Preparation
Add all ingredients to the Cuisinart, starting with 1 tbsp water.  Blend until a paste forms.  Scrape the sides to make sure all of the beans are incorporated.  Add more water if needed. Blend again until the mixture becomes your desired texture (I like mine a bit grainy). Sprinkle hot paprika over top and garnish with a lemon wedge.

December 8, 2008

Wheat Germ and Banana Muffins

I am very particular about bananas, as I suspect some other people are too.  I like them when they've just turned yellow, even with a tint of green but after 5 or so brown spots, I just can't eat them- that is unless they are hidden in a bread or cake or muffin.  I have this "extra banana" problem often, because I eat about 1 a day so it seems silly just to buy 3 at the grocery store, but then before I can get to all 7 of them, some start browning.  And since I don't like to have things going to waste, I find myself making banana-y baked goods often.

While these "Wheat Germ and Banana Muffins" may not have the most appealing name, they are really good.  What I like most about them is that they taste like a muffin should taste.  Not like those cupcakes disguised as muffins sold in most bakeries.  I also think they are fairly healthy and adaptable.  You could make half with nuts and half without, add chocolate chips, use more whole wheat flour, substitute applesauce for part of the oil, make a crumbly wheat germ topping- no matter what, I think these would still turn out a quality muffin... well maybe that whole chocolate chip thing would make them a cupcake, but it's debatable.

Now back to bananas for a minute.  My roommates and I left some out over Thanksgiving break while we were away (this may be the cause of our new fruit fly (?) problem) so being the first one back I saw them and decided to put them in the freezer, skins on and all, until I would have time to turn them into something more appealing.  So I put them in the freezer for a few days and then defrosted them in the fridge (note: they only take a few hours to defrost so you don't need to take them out a day ahead, which I did) and they were SO mushy.  I touched the skin and it felt like it was filled with slime.  Anyway, to use them in the muffins I just scored down the middle with a knife and emptied the insides into a bowl- it was kind of disgusting (don't worry no graphic shots), but made these great muffins.


Wheat Germ and Banana Muffins

Adapted from Bon App├ętit

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)  - I just used 3 large ones without measuring
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 16 muffin cups with foil muffin papers. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Mix in wheat germ. Combine bananas, milk, eggs, oil and vanilla extract in large bowl and whisk to blend. Mix in dry ingredients. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, dividing equally.

Bake muffins until tops are golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

December 7, 2008

Spiced Cider Cranberry Sauce

Before I left for Thanksgiving break I bought a bag of cranberries at the Farmer's Market because they were so perfect looking and seasonal. I had planned on making some cranberry sauce before I left but soon realized I had way too much work to think about such things. Luckily cranberries keep very well. They can be kept in the fridge for 3 weeks to a month and in the freezer for much longer than that. So when I got back from break, surprisingly not cranberry-ed out from Thanksgiving, I decided to make some.

I had read a recipe on epicurious about a cranberry sauce using dried cherries and cherry cider and coincidentally my roommate and her family had made a similar one for their Thanksgiving- and she said it was amazing. Since I wasn't really in the mood to go out into the cold searching for cherry cider I decided to improvise and just make my own cranberry sauce using some things we already had.

Since I had no less work coming back from Thanksgiving break and thus no time to buy any groceries for about a week, I pretty much ate this cranberry sauce with everything. In oatmeal, on top of yogurt, as a sandwich spread, by itself, whatever- and it was all quite delicious. And if I can give you any advice I would say, DO NOT skip the cherries. When boiled in the cider and cranberries they puffed up and filled with juices that burst through your mouth after the first bite.

Spiced Cider Cranberry Sauce (with apples and dried cherries)
Ingredients

1 12 oz bag cranberries
1 cup Spiced Apple Cider
1/3 cup dried cherries (tart or bing- I did a mixture)
1 apple, peeled and chopped (I used a pink lady)
1/3 cup sugar*
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preparation

Bring the cider to a boil, peel and chop the apple then coat pieces with cinnamon. Add the sugar to the cider and when it has dissolved add the cranberries, dried cherries and apple. Boil until the cranberries begin to burst and the sauce thickens- about 15 minutes.

*I like my cranberry sauce pretty tart, so you may want to add a bit more sugar to this recipe if you'd like something sweeter.

November 30, 2008

Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart

I spent this Thanksgiving in Washington D.C. with my boyfriend and his family.  They asked me what I'd like to cook and since I'm much more confident in my baking skills, I decided I wanted to make a dessert.  I also think I just like baking better because the finished product is always so much prettier if things go as planned... 

Anyway, for days (literally) I was trying to decide what I should make.  I wanted to try something new but I didn't want to go out on a limb and try something that might be horrible. Also, I really didn't want it to go wrong and look like a bad cook, so needless to say it was difficult to choose.  I had been thinking about the Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart listed on smittenkitchen because it looked so festive and had gotten such great reviews by both Deb and The Wednesday Chef, two people I trust for cooking reviews.  But I was worried about the shrinking crust (something they both also mentioned).  I didn't really want to risk it coming out terribly (although even with the shrunken crust Deb's looked pretty delicious) so I looked and looked for other possible recipes.  

Truthfully though nothing else seemed as fitting and someone was already bringing apple pie and my boyfriend's sister was making pumpkin, so that left two major Thanksgiving food groups off limits for me.  But then- then I saw this post and was a little bit too excited because it seemed to be the answer to and end of my Thanksgiving dessert pondering.  

So I made the crust a day ahead and it was SO crumbly.  I did everything the recipe said and even used frozen butter to make sure it was cold enough, but I didn't get any oatmeal or pea sized flakes before the egg was added, or clumps and curds after.  When I turned the dough out on the counter to ball it together before I stuck it in the fridge it would hardly hold its shape.  It just crumbled everywhere and would not stick together.  So I was nervous and confused about what had gone wrong but was hoping overnight in the fridge might solve the problem. Unfortunately it didn't really. 

I took the dough out and attempted to work with it right out of the fridge but it was a rock.  I tried to warm it some in my hands and mash it a little but it just crumbled and crumbled.  I let it get warm for a while, attempted to work with it again and was slightly more successful.  I ended up doing a combination of smushing it with my hands and rolling it out between wax paper and eventually it started working.  But then it was a mess flipping it into the tart pan and I was pushing parts that fell off into the pan with my fingers.  Finally after all that it ended up working but not looking too pretty.  Then when I pre-baked it, some of the dough stuck to the buttery foil (which I had made sure to extra buttery in order to avoid such a situation) it cooked under but the uneven parts were covered with filling later so it didn't really matter.

The filling was pretty easy, except I tried to stir the sugar too early and it ended up forming some hard clumps, luckily they melted once the caramel heated through.  Also pouring the butter and cream mixture into the caramel was a bit messy and the caramel ended up hardening some because the butter and cream had cooled.  I put it back on the heat and after some careful stirring with my caramelized utensils things turned out alright.

                 Un-baked Tart

It ended up looking beautiful out of the oven (see first picture) and while I wasn't blown away by the taste the first time I tried it (thought it was too nutty) other people at Thanksgiving seemed to really enjoy it.  I had another piece a couple days later and definitely appreciated it more.  The caramel was really tasty, sweet, and sticky.  The almonds were slightly crunchy, the crust was buttery and the cranberries burst in your mouth.  All in all I think it turned out to be a pretty successful endeavor. 

Sweet Tart Shell
Dorie Greenspan via smittenkitchen

Ingredients
Makes enough for one 9-inch tart crust*  I used a 10 inch pan and it worked fine too

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Preparation

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. And here is the very best part: Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.

Do ahead: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out.


Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart
Maury Rubin, chef and owner of City Bakery via smittenkitchen

Ingredients
Filling and assembly

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup frozen cranberries
2 cups unblanched sliced almonds (I used blanched by mistake)

Preparation

1. Measure the cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.

2. To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.

3. The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the cream and butter into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added (long sleeves are a good precaution). If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.

4. Stir the frozen cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart dough mounding toward the center.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour, then gently lift the tart ring off the pastry.

6. Carefully transfer the tart to a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

November 23, 2008

Kale for Brunch

Thinking (i.e. not thinking) it would be a great idea to buy lots of fresh vegetables only a little more than a week before I'm supposed to leave for Thanksgiving break has left me trying to think of creative ways to put all these veggies to use so they don't go to waste.  Thus, I've been eating kale with pretty much everything.  I got the idea for this recipe from Orangette's post entitled "Pleasantly Sogged" and yes, it was.  

So for a new (or maybe not so new?) twist on kale I decided to have it, instead of spinach, with toasted homemade bread, tomatoes, gouda, and an over easy egg.  It was satisfying, warm, and a great way to incorporate a healthy seasonal vegetable into a quick meal.  

A Seasonal Take on an Egg on Toast
Ingredients

1 large stalk of kale
1 roma tomato
1 egg
1 thick slice rustic bread, lightly toasted
a few slices gouda (or your favorite cheese)

oil for the pan
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Chop the kale width wise in long thin ribbons, about 1/4 inch thick, place in a pan, cover with salted water and place over high heat.  Chop the tomato, slice cheese, and toast the bread.  Boil the kale for about 7-10 minutes (or longer depending on your taste- I like mine still with some bite).  Drain the kale in a colander.  Add a tiny bit of oil, drained kale and tomatoes to the pan. Saute until heated through then lay over toasted bread.  Place cheese slices over top.  In the same pan, crack an egg and fry with a tight lid over the top, this will create an over-easy egg.  Once the white has hardened and there is a white layer over the still runny yolk, remove egg from pan and place over the veggie/cheese mixture on toast.  Add salt and pepper and enjoy.

November 15, 2008

Fall Harvest Pasta

Yesterday I went to the Farmer's Market close to my house and was really surprised at how great everything looked and how much variety they had. Usually the market by my house is not so great (bruised produce, not a big selection) but yesterday (and hopefully the rest of this season?) was definitely an exception. I bought a bunch of stuff there for only $9, which made me feel a lot less guilty than my trip to Whole Foods the day before when I bought not much at all for $54.
Seeing all the seasonal fall vegetables really made me want to try cooking something with them. I've only made butternut squash once before and the result was less than pleasing and I've never cooked with kale but I thought I might as well go for it. How hard could it be?

Very hard actually, butternut squash that is. It is so hard my shitty knives and even my good knife had quite a bit of difficulty cutting though it, but it was definitely worth it. The baked/ broiled squash cubes were so tasty, they kind of reminded me of sweet potato fries. I couldn't stop popping pieces into my mouth while the rest of the food was cooking.
Pretty pomegranate from the Farmer's Market


Fall Harvest Pasta
Ingredients

1 butternut squash, cubed
about 1 1/2 cups kale, chopped
1/2 medium red onion
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
parmesan cheese
cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cube butternut squash, coat with 1 1/2 tbsps olive oil, spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with cayenne and salt. Bake for 20 minutes, broil for about 10 until slightly browned and crisp on the outside. While the squash cooks, boil water for the pasta and saute an onion and garlic in remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil. After the onion is translucent, add the kale and saute. Drain the pasta and combine with cooked vegetables in a large bowl, mix, add more olive oil and salt if desired. Grate some parmesan cheese over top.

November 14, 2008

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Last spring break when I stayed here in St. Louis instead of doing anything cool and fun I thought it would be a great idea to get into baking bread.  At the time I didn't really understand what "getting into baking bread" entailed so one day I went to Barnes and Nobles and looked at tons of bread cookbooks, finally settled on one (I think it was one Peter Rinehart's) and bought it.   Then when I got home and got to reading it, I began to realize all of the intricacies involved in the bread baking process and all of the equipment (not to mention time or patience) that I didn't have.  And then I returned it. Oops.

But luckily that wasn't the end of bread baking for me. I found a simple recipe for whole wheat bread from Gourmet, made that and ended up thinking that maybe baking bread doesn't have to be so intimidating after all.  Of course there can be a lot of complexity to it if you so desire, but it can also be fairly simple and very do-able (sp?).

I've been wanting to delve back into it for awhile and last night after a disappointing paper grade, a food sample binge at whole foods and a cocktail, I decided it was time.  At first I wanted to make this recipe for honey wheat bread but because of the long pre-ferment and my aforementioned lack of patience I decided to use this one from Martha Stewart instead. 

And now I must say that Martha Stewart is no bread baker.  While the final product turned out well, there was a definite problem along the way.  Her flour measurement was completely off, which resulted in this (see below) sticky, doughy, difficult to work with hand. Humph.

I halved the recipe in order to make only one loaf because I thought having two around would probably result in a "this is going to go bad soon so I have to eat it carb overload," but I am pretty positive I didn't mess up any of the measurements and I used about 1/2 - 3/4 of a cup more flour than the recipe called for (so if you were making the whole recipe that would be 1- 1 1/2 cups more!).  Also even though I did this it was still fairly sticky but I didn't want to add too much flour and ruin the recipe. 

Anyway the final product ended up tasting pretty delicious.  It's doughy and thick with a hint of sweetness and tastes great toasted.  Today I had a slice with half peanut butter, half almond butter and maple syrup poured on top.  Really really good idea.

Some changes I made are: putting a pan of water on the rack below the bread so that a nice crusty crust forms, fermenting the yeast for longer in the hope of extra flavor development, (although I don't really know if it changed anything or not) and sprinkling some poppy and flax seeds over the top.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Martha Stewart

Ingredients
2 loaves

3 1/2 cups warm water, 100 degrees to 110 degrees
3 tablespoons honey
2 packets active dry yeast
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons salt
Canola oil, for bowls, plastic wrap, and pans

Preparation

Combine warm water, honey, and yeast in a large liquid-measuring cup. Stir until dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 1/2 cups of the bread flour, the whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon, gradually drawing in the flour until well combined.
Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead in the remaining 1/2 cup bread flour a little at a time until dough is smooth and elastic, 10 to 15 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Transfer to a warm place, and let rise until double its original size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in center. Brush two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with canola oil. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and punch down. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Flatten one piece of dough into an oval, and roll up lengthwise. Place the roll, seam-side down, into a prepared pan. Repeat process with second piece. Cover with oiled plastic wrap. Place the loaves in a warm place, and let rise again until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake until deep golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes (the loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom). Transfer pans to a rack, and let cool 5 minutes. Invert the loaves onto the rack to cool completely.

November 10, 2008

Deliciously Warm Sandwich(es)

I can't really take much credit for this because I got the idea for the sweet half (caramelized onions, brie, apple butter) from my roommate Pamela when she was telling me about a similar omelette she made and I got the idea for the salty half (caramelized onions, swiss, pickles, dijon mustard) from this post.  So needless to say I was feeling indecisive (as per usual) about two very similar yet quite different lunch options and decided to make them both as halves of one sandwich. 

And they were SO GOOD.  A little bit difficult to eat, with onions and melted cheese squeezing out of the sides with each bite and of course there were some things I would have done differently: I didn't time the toasting of the bread very well so it was a little on the hard side after sitting for a bit waiting for the onions to finish caramelizing, I would have made the pieces of onion bigger (I cut the onion in half widthwise before slicing it), I would have remembered which side of the sandwich and was sweet and which was salty so I didn't have to turn one piece of bread upside down so as not to mix the spreads... but it didn't matter because it was still delicious.  Just right for a cold day or my cold house everyday.

I had a bite of each half first to try them but then I ate all of the salty half because I always like to have something sweet to finish off a meal.  I don't think either half was better but I may be partial to the sweet side because it had a mix of sweet (apple butter) and salty (brie, onions).

Caramelized Onion and Cheese Sandwich
Ingredients

1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp olive oil

Sweet Half:
sliced brie
apple butter

Salty Half:
sliced swiss cheese (or gruyere)
sandwich slice pickle
dijon mustard

Preparation
Add olive oil to a pan on high heat. Once the oil is hot, add onion slices and brown sugar and turn heat down to medium. When the onions are almost done caramelizing put the bread in the toaster oven. When partially toasted place swiss cheese and brie on opposite sides of the same piece of bread. Continue toasting till cheese is melty. Spread apple butter and dijon on opposite sides of non-cheesed toast.  Place pickle on top of mustard. Pour caramelized onions on top of cheese, put toast slices together and cut. 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blackberry Compote

I had some leftover ricotta cheese from when I made baked ziti (sorry no photos or recipe) over fall break- surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, it takes a relatively long time to go bad. Anyway I was trying to figure out some ways to use it that didn't include pasta and red sauce, not that there's anything wrong with that but it's just so regular.










I came across this recipe on smittenkitchen and I already had everything it called for, plus Deb's pictures always make everything look so good that I really wanted to try it. Instead of doing these pancakes with the sauteed apples that the original recipe calls for, I decided to use some frozen blackberries I had to make a compote instead.

And just look at how well I whipped these egg whites. I'm glad too so I can evidence that perhaps it's not my lack of ability which created that mess (see 3rd photo) last time. I think whipping the eggs also added a lot of fluffiness to what could have been a really dense pancake- you know with all of that cheese and no real liquid...
They were so pillowy and thick and although I guess I wouldn't say "light" considering the ingredients, they definitely weren't as heavy as they could have been. And even though I haven't tried them with the sauteed apples I thought the blackberry compote worked better because it was a nice complement to the lemon-y flavor of the pancakes.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blackberry Compote
Adapted from Gourmet via smittenkitchen
Ingredients

For the Blackberry Compote:
1 cup frozen blackberries
Juice from 1 small lemon
1 tbsp brown sugar

For the Pancakes:
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
melted butter for brushing the griddle

maple syrup as an accompaniment

Preparation

Prepare the Blackberry Compote:
Add the blackberries, lemon juice, and brown sugar to a pan over medium high heat. Once the the mixture begins to bubble, squash the blackberries and continue cooking over medium until the blackberries have cooked down and the mixture has reduced.

Make the Pancakes:
In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F. oven.

Serve the pancakes with the blackberry compote and the maple syrup.

November 9, 2008

Pappardelle Pasta with Fresh Roasted Vegetables

Yesterday afternoon my boyfriend and I went to the Soulard Market to get some food for dinner later that night. It's so nice to go there because the market is huge, everything is fresh and really well priced. They even had some live turkeys and... er, I guess it can't get much fresher than that, right? We didn't really have anything particular in mind for dinner so we just ended up picking out a bunch of fresh vegetables like these miniature sweet peppers, which were $1 a box.

Later on we passed a stand with lots of different varieties of pasta. They had so many combinations I'd never even heard of or thought about like chocolate linguini, lemon, tangerine, and beet flavored pasta, and so many other colorful mixes of orzo and rotini. We settled on some whole wheat toasted onion pappardelle because I think the thickness of pappardelle just makes it heartier and more flavorful, plus it looks pretty.  I'm pretty sure I could actually taste the toasted onion when we had the pasta and it pleasantly reminded me of the dry lipton soup mix I used to use to make french onion dip when I was little.

Before we started cooking I looked at some recipes for pasta with eggplant because since it's only recently that I started liking eggplant, I've never cooked with it before. Most of the recipes I read talked about roasting the eggplant in the oven instead of sauteing it, which is how I usually cook my vegetables. So I decided to roast all the vegetables (except the tomatoes and some onion which I used for a light sauce) in the oven.

Pappardelle Pasta with Fresh Roasted Vegetables
Ingredients

1/2 lb pappardelle pasta
2 tomatoes
1/2 medium eggplant
7 miniature sweet peppers (or 2 regular sized)
3/4 large zucchini
1 yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp butter

pinch of oregano and red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for grating

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Chop the eggplant, peppers, zucchini, 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 the onion in medium chunks. In a casserole dish or glass baking pan toss the chopped vegetables with 1 tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper until coated. Place in the oven and roast for 25- 30 minutes*.  

While the vegetables are cooking put a large pot of water on the stove for the pasta then chop the tomatoes and finely chop the other half of the onion and 3 cloves of garlic.  Once the water is boiling add the pasta and cook until al-dente.  Add the onions and garlic to a hot pan with the butter and 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook until slightly browned, then add tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down.  Add some pasta water to the sauce if it cooks down too much (I added about 2-3 tbsp).

Remove the vegetable from the oven and toss in the pan with the tomato sauce. Plate the pasta and cover with vegetable sauce and grated parmesan cheese. Serve.

*This is how long I roasted them and I found that some of the vegetables had gotten a little soft for my taste; however, I usually like my vegetables very very crunchy.  To avoid this perhaps it would be better to only roast the eggplant and brown the other vegetables in a pan with some oil.