Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dark Chocolate Tart

I was going to keep giving you cookie recipes from my cookie baking bonanza, until I was hit with an epiphany Wednesday at work around lunch time.  It went something like this: "oh my god.  The chocolate tart".   And then I proceeded to feel guilty the rest of the day because, well, the chocolate tart.  I forgot to write and tell you about the chocolate tart.

It was going to be my birthday cake when I was home in November, but got bumped back to Thanksgiving when I found an incredibly recipe for cinnamon roll cheese cake, and begged my mom to make that for me instead.  See, I wanted to make the chocolate tart myself, bask in the glory of it's deliciousness, take all the credit for it and then post it on here.  It was that last part that I sort of, kinda, just until this Wednesday, forgot. And I am so sorry, because this tart is a chocolate orgy in your mouth, in the absolute best way possible.

If you do not love chocolate, this is not for you.  But if you can't help but order the chocolate lava cake whenever it appears on a menu anywhere, even though you know it'll probably just disappoint you, you have found the one.  It is thick, dense and fudgey, yet the top kind of gets crackly almost like a brownie.  You're basically eating solid, silky chocolate in a gingersnap crust, and let me tell you, it doesn't get better than that.  This tart is so good that when I realized that the slice I took on the plane with me to let Ben "try" got lost, never to be found, I almost cried.  Real tears.  It's just that good.

And I know that this is the day before diets and cleanses and all other manners of trying to purge holiday weight begin.  And I know that I've been holding out on you since Thanksgiving with the perfection that is this tart.  And I apologize.  But look at it this way, what better way is there to end this season of gluttony then to enjoy a slice of pure chocolate heaven while forgetting for those moments the fact that tomorrow you'll eat nothing but egg whites, carrot sticks and water?  Right?  Right!

Whatever rationalization you need to tell yourself to get this tart into your oven, onto a plate and into your mouth, I promise, it'll be worth it.  And then just resolve tonight that you'll be better tomorrow...
 Happy New Year!!!

Dark Chocolate Tart
The smitten kitchen strikes again!

As a head's up, my pictures do not do this tart justice.  It is pretty and even if your's doesn't come out picture perfect, frankly once people have tasted it, they won't give a crap.  We did gussie ours up with some fresh cranberries and whip creme, but of course, there are no pictures of that...

Also, our was a hodgepdoge of chocolate.  There were a few ounces of German chocolate thrown in there, some Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips and a few ounces of Baker's unsweetened.  And it all came together beautiful.  For the crumb crust, I had to use more butter and next time I won't pulverize the gingersnaps (homemade by my momma, of course) as finely.  Maybe that'll help with the crumbliness.

1 2/3 c. gingersnap cookie crumbs
l/4 c. melted butter (I had to use more)

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks (save the whites for meringues!  yum)
1 large egg
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. fine ground black pepper
Large pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Chop and whir gingersnap cookies in food processor until you have enough.  Add melted butter and pulse a few times until mixture comes together.  Press into 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Firmly press onto bottom and up sides of pan, using a coffee cup or straight-walled measuring cup to help form the sides.  Place on rimmed baking sheet.

In medium sauce pan over low heat, combine chocolate and cream.  Whisk until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth, remove from heat.  In separate bowl, whisk remaining ingredients thoroughly.  In small batches, gradually mix in chocolate and cream mixture into egg mixture, beating well after each addition so chocolate filling is well blended and smooth.  Pour filling (trying not to steal too many taste tries...) into prepared crust.

Bake tart in 325 degree oven until filling puffs slight at the edges and the center is softly set, about 30-32 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.  After 20 minutes, remove tart pan gently, as the crust will be very crumbly.  Allow tart to completely cool.  Slice and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lemony Slice-and-Bake

Recently, my problem has not been lack of creativity nor an unwillingness to shop and try new recipes.  Rather, it has been the very fast and very unexplainable disappearance of time.  Well that and a dash of laziness.  I actually have several recipes ready to go, pictures and all, but not the time to type them all out.

Between an international long weekend trip, Christmas with the family, moving apartments yet again (fingers crossed, this is the last time!) and a big New Year's Eve party to go to, blogging unfortunately has taken a back seat.  But at least once a week is what I promised you all back in the beginning, and that is what I am going to do.  Thank God for the holidays, otherwise we could be in real trouble here.  Please just excuse me that I'm a little behind on the times, and you're getting Christmas cookies two days after Christmas.  But what else are New  Year's Eve Parties for??

These cookies are quite wonderful, tart in the most delicious and lemony way.  If you are a fan of lemon, these are definitely for you.  I just drizzled them all over with the lemon glaze that Bon Appetit gave with the recipe, but a sprinkle of some raw sugar or decorative sugar would be just the topping these tart babies need.  They mellow out after a day or two and these didn't last beyond that, so I can't tell you where they go from there.

Lemony Slice-And-Bake
Adapted from December 2011's Bon Appetit

These are of the infamous slice and bake variety, so if you want to leave a log frozen in the freezer, ready to go at a moment's notice, go for it!

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon zest (from 2 medium sized lemons)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks

Lemon Glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk together flour and salt.  In electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.  Add egg yolks all at once and beat on medium high speed until just incorporated.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour in a few batches, mixing until just blended.

Lay out two sheets of plastic wrap.  Turn dough out onto one sheet and divide into two even balls.  Roll each ball into a log, about 1 1/2-inches in diameter.  Wrap each log well in plastic wrap and chill in fridge until firm.  (Can be done up to 2 days in advance, if longer, freeze).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Remove logs from fridge and unwrap.  Working quickly so logs stay chilled, cut into 1/4-inch rounds.  Space out on prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown around the edges and firm.  Remove from oven and let cool on pan for one minute, move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

For lemon glaze, whisk all three ingredients, adding more powdered sugar or lemon juice as needed for proper consistency.  Drizzle over cooled cookies and let stand until icing sets.

"Do Ahead: Can be made 3 days ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Chip Meringues

I went a little crazy on Sunday.  I got in the spirit of Christmas and dived in head first into a day of baking.  I do it every year and in a fit of what I will call holiday cheer, I make cookies.  Lots of cookies.  Usually this results in very happy friends, family and coworkers and one giant mess in my kitchen.  This year held two surprises though.  One, my kitchen was not a mess afterwards.  Flour did not cover my flour, walls and all my counters and somehow dishes only took 20 minutes tops.  I'm still not 100% sure how I managed that, but I chalk that up to me growing up and becoming a mature adult. (ha!)  And secondly, I love meringues.

I don't know what took me so long to come to that realization but by noon on Monday, I had eaten 7.  I'm not proud of this.  I am also, apparently, completely powerless when it comes to meringues.  Or, to put a much less fattening spin on the topic, these meringues are that good.  First off, just look how pretty they are.  All whippy and peaked.  And then you pick one up and they're light as air (which ties into how you can convince yourself that it's ok to eat more than 8 in one day...)  And then you bite into this puff of toasted, stale Peep-like sugary  concoction and I know that doesn't sound delicious, but it is. And the next thing you know, you've put 9 down your gullet and your hankering for number 10.  Damn, I want another one...

They're easy-peasy to make too, which if you're me is the scary part about this.  Now I can have meringues whenever I want.  You just put your KitchenAid on and start whipping the whites, then pour in some salt and vanilla, followed by small additions of sugar.  Once you got your peaks, you get to fold in yummy goodness (aka-mini chocolate chips and chopped cashews) and plop they go onto a cookie sheet, into the oven and 25 minutes later, these come out.  Bam.  One goes into your mouth, followed by two, three and four and then you just resign yourself to the fact that it's officially the holidays and you'll try to be skinny come January... More cookie recipes to come!  I just need to go work out first.  Happy Holidays!

Chocolate Chip Meringues
A la the Smitten Kitchen

The one thing I didn't do was to chop up the mini chocolate chips.  I have already gone back and forth about this in my head.  At the moment, I am liking the fact that they kind of big in there, not just a chocolaty swirl all through.  But that could be a good thing too.  My best solution?  Chop half, leave the other mini chips whole.  Also, if you start thinking about all the other wonderful things you could shove into a meringue, you are not alone.  I want to make batches with peanut chips, toffee bits and that yummy orange stuff inside of Butterfingers, aka Chick-O-Sticks.  If any of it ever happens, I'll let you know.

Also, I did not have any cream of tartar on hand.  You only need 1/8 tsp of it.  Little known fact, baking powder is 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 5/8 cream of tartar.  Tada-  I just subbed in 1/4 tsp. of baking powder and as far as I can tell, it did what it was supposed to.  This will make about 2-3 dozen.

2 egg whites, room temp
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
scant 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips, some chopped if you wish
1/4 c. chopped pecans, or whatever kind of nut you have lying around

Preheat oven to 300°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites till frothy.  Add salt, baking powder and vanilla, continue to whip until egg whites hold soft peaks.  In small additions, start adding in sugar, letting mixture whip a few seconds in between each addition.  Whip until stiff.  Gently fold in chocolate and nuts.  Spoon batter by rounded tablespoon onto a prepared baking sheet.  Bake in over for 25 minutes, till undersides are lightly tanned and cookies sound hollow.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms

Why, helllooo mister Jimmy Dean.  Have you met Ms. Cream Cheese?  Because I think you two would really hit it off.  Truly.  So please, mix, mingle, meld.  

Need a place to hang out?  Well, lookie here, why don't you take a sit in one of these mushroom caps.  They're roomy and comfortable and let's just face it, meaty.  And meaty is good.  You're not cold are you?  Let's see what we got here...

Ah, yes, a blanket of a Parmesan Cheese and bread crumbs.  That's the ticket!  Please get all snuggled in underneath.  And lastly, how about some ambiance?  I'm talking steam bath here, Jimmy Dean, you can't say no to that now can you?  Didn't think so...

Alright... I really have no idea where that all came from, I guess that's just what stuffed mushrooms bring out in me.  And why wouldn't they?  It is spicy Jimmy Bean sausage and cream cheese and mushroom and please, just a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top, if you don't mind.  They are delicious and poppable and well, just party perfect in every way.  So, enough of the silliness, do what you do and pop these in the oven just as fast as possible, because the sooner you do that, the sooner you can pop them in your mouth!

Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms
From Mom's kitchen

2 dozen large mushrooms (plus or minus a few)
1 package Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
1 8 oz package cream cheese
Panko bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375.  Clean mushrooms with a damp cloth.  Remove stems and scoop out a little bit of insides if necessary to get a good mushroom like cup.  Place cup side up in a rimmed baking dish.

Brown and drain sausage.  In large mixing bowl, combine with cream cheese.  If you are experimenting, here is where you can add things.  Stuff sausage cream cheese mixture firmly into mushroom caps, letting them overflow slightly.  Sprinkle with Panko bread crumbs and press down to secure.  Sprinkle generously with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and press down to secure.  

Add 1 Tbsp of water to baking dish with stuffed mushrooms.  Place in 375 and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Serve hot!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Grape Apple Pie

Or, as we more affectionately referred to it all Thanksgiving day long, Grapple Pie.

My Thanksgiving adventures are long over due to show up here.  I have sneakily been avoiding them since I got back to Terre Haute by giving you recipes for things like enchiladas and crackers made with half and half.  In my defense, who really wants a stuffing recipe that requires turkey giblets to be made properly in December?  Turkey season, whether we like it or not, has passed and Christmas is gloriously upon us.  Stuffing recipes, along with pumpkin pie and candied yam recipes, are going to have to be shelved for awhile.

Pie recipes, on the other hand, do not.  Especially when honey crisp apples are still cheap and grapes so dark they look black are abundant.  And this would be a welcome addition to any Christmas, Hanukkah or "Winter Wonderland" party (for our PC friends out there...)  Just don't put a turkey cut-out in the middle and you're good to go, no turkey giblets required.

Grape Apple ("Grapple") Pie

From Bon Appetit's 2011 November edition

This pie takes a little bit of time.  Most of it is not active time, but there is parbaking, cooling and chilling.  We were running out of time and cut some corners, but even so I stayed up till 1 am finishing off the pie.  So start in the morning and don't do what we did!

For Crust:
3 c. all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
1/2 c. vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/3 c. ice water

For Filling:
3 lbs. "tart, crisp" apples (Pink Lady, Crispin)
1 lb. black grapes
3/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour

For crust, combine flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a food processor.  Mix well.  Add chilled butter and shortening and cut into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal.  If using a food processor, pulse until dough forms coarse meal.  Slowly add ice water, continuing to pulse or cut dough until dough forms.  If dry, add more ice water by teaspoons until dough forms, but don't let it get sticky.   Divide dough into two equal balls, then flatten into disks.  Bits of butter should be seen in the dough.  Wrap disks in plastic and chill in refrigerator (NOT FREEZER--like I might have done...) for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Once dough is chilled, remove from fridge and immediately roll out dough into a round large enough to fill a 9 inch pie pan.  Transfer to pie pan and trim dough to edge of dish, with no dough left hanging over.  Work quickly so dough does not warm up much.  Place pie dish and dough into freezer and freeze till firm, roughly 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add dough scraps to other ball.  Roll out dough to form pie lid, about a 12 inch circle, again working quickly so dough remains cold.   Slide onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet and return to fridge to chill.

To parbake the bottom crust, preheat oven to 375°.  Line dough with parchment paper and fill with dried beans.  Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes, or until edge just start to turn golden.  Remove parchment paper and beans.  If bottom has puffed up, prick in a few places with a fork.  Return to oven and continue to bake another 20-25 minutes, until crust is a deep golden brown.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

While crust is cooling, peel, core and thinly slice apples.  Halve grapes and remove any seeds if present.  Combine apple slices, grapes, sugar and flour in a large saucepan, mix well.  Cook on stove over medium-low heat, stirring often for 30-40 minutes.  Fruit should begin to look translucent and juices will thicken.  Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.  While cooling, decoratively cut top crust dough, reserving cutouts to place on top as more decoration.  Return to fridge.

Once mixture has cooled, preheat oven to 375°.  Pour filling into parbaked pie crust.  Carefully transfer refrigerated top crust over filling.  Cut off overhang and press crusts closed.  Place reserved cutouts over top, pressing lightly to make sure cutouts stick.  Place pie on rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.

Bake pie at 375°, until juices are bubbling and crust is a pretty golden brown, 55-60 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.  Whew, enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Parmesan and Cheddar Crackers

Happy December everyone!!  I know that it seems like only last week that I was ranting and raving about people who are obsessed with Christmas and listening to Christmas music WAYY to early, but we are less than 3 weeks from Christmas now, and people, it is officially Christmastime.  My Christmas lights are up, my snowman candle holder lit, and my Santa Claus cookie jar is safely on my counter.  Empty, but not for long.

These crackers, while not cookies, almost made it into Santa Claus's head.  In fact, the only reason they didn't was that they went too fast, and this was a double batch.  I've never made crackers before and so of course believed that they were quite difficult to make.  An assumption that I make more often than I should.  In fact, most of my culinary discoveries follow this route:  I see something commonly bought and assume it's difficult to make, I find a recipe and decide to give it a go, I make it and realize how incredibly simple it is, I then proceed to run around the rest of the weekend going "Ben!  I made crackers!  Ben!  Isn't that awesome?!?"  Needless to say, Ben isn't as impressed by my culinary achievements as much as he used to be.

 But I still am, especially when something common is simple to make, requires very few ingredients and is infinitely adaptable.  I tried these out mostly because the recipe would use up some of the left over half and half I had in the fridge.  I followed the recipe, topped it off with some fresh ground pepper and tried them out of the oven warm.  They were fantastic and required an immediate call to Ben to shout "I made crackers!"  After a lukewarm reception, I decided that if the crackers tasted that good with older, almost stale Parmesan wouldn't they taste fantastic with the block of cheddar-tomato-basil I bought not to long ago?  And a second round was born.

Personally, I enjoyed the Parmesan batch the best.  The cheddar seemed to get lost in the cracker and the tomato-basil flavor was almost entirely absent, much to my disappointment.  A stronger cheese is probably needed in order for the flavor to not get completely lost, as well as some tasty toppings.  My next endeavor in the cracker arena will be to make the Parmesan version again with something more than pepper on top, maybe fresh rosemary or thyme, maybe try out another cheese, maybe even try out another flour.  There is a block of pepper jack left over from the enchiladas and enough half and half for another batch...

Parmesan Crackers
adapted from the smitten kitchen 

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 c. half and half
Toppings: fresh ground pepper, herbs, poppy seeds, etc

Preheat oven to 400 degree F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In food processor, combine first 4 ingredients.  Pulse until well combined.  Stream in half and half with processor running until dough forms.  If necessary, add half and half until dough is formed, but not sticky.
Turn dough out onto well floured counter.  With rolling pin, roll out until less than 1/4 inch thick.  Using pizza cutter or pastry wheel or cookie cutter, cut out crackers.  (If using a pizza cutter/pastry wheel, maybe use a ruler or something, if you don't want you crackers to look like a drunk 2 year old cut them).  Using a fork, poke crackers in several places to keep them from puffing in the oven.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet and top with whatever toppings you wish.  Put in oven and bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove and cool on rack.  

I didn't store these in anything, but they barely lasted 2 days.  Otherwise, store in an airtight container!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garlic and Bean Enchiladas

There is so much to tell you about!  My birthday cake (cinnamon roll cheesecake, and it was as delicious as it sounds, thank you mommy), Thanksgiving, new pies and tarts, Thanksgiving, stuffing and stuffed mushrooms and, oh yeah, did I forget to mention THANKSGIVING HAPPENED LAST WEEK?  Which really is my only defense as to why it has taken me so long to get back on here.  It took me way too long to organize my photos from the baking, cooking, eating bonanza, let alone blog about it.  

Which totally explains why, instead of getting into the heart of the decadence and diving into pie recipes head first, I am giving you this.  Last night's dinner.  And consequently, today's (and tomorrow's and Friday's) lunch. Garlic and bean enchiladas smothered in salsa verde and less cheese than I personally prefer, but so it goes the week following Thanksgiving.  

I discovered this recipe the summer I lived in Rhode Island, back when I was the only one who knew how to cook and I would exchange homemade dinners for freshly made margaritas at least once a week.  While I haven't made it since that summer, I remember it being two things:  a small pain in the butt to make and quite tasty.  Being as I'm now older and wiser, I think I have managed to cut back on the first , and after lunch today I can confirm the second: still tasty!

The original recipe, safely pasted into my big green cookbook, calls for things like thinly slicing EIGHT cloves of garlic and pre-frying the corn tortillas in a good inch of oil.  All I can say to that is, get yourself one of these things and chop the damn garlic and there is no need to be deep frying anything.  As stated above, it's the week after Thanksgiving!  Not only will your stomach love you for laying off the leftover turkey and candied yams, but I'm pretty sure your thighs aren't going to complain about something not being deep fried.  Instead, poor a small amount of oil in a skillet and heat the tortillas a few seconds on each side, letting them blister.  And all of a sudden, you have a quick, healthy meal.  Healthy because salsa is good for you and we're going light on the cheese, remember??  (And if you sprinkle on a little more while no one is looking, I promise it'll be our little secret!)  Guten Appetit!

Garlic and Bean Enchiladas

I promise that these are not as garlicky as they sound.   Also, they can be made the night before, all the way up through smothering it in salsa and cheese.  Plus, if you grate the cheese the night before, they'll be in the oven in a minute flat!  Just cover the naked enchiladas and refrigerate them over night.

2 Tbsp. Canola oil, plus more for warm tortillas
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
1/3 c. chicken broth
2 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
10-12 corn tortillas
2 cups salsa verde
1 1/2 c. pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 a brick)

Preheat oven to 375.  Over medium heat, heat oil in sauce pan until hot.  Add garlic and cook, stirring the whole time until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add beans and chicken broth.  Season with cumin, salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking until soft, mashing beans to desired consistency, about 7-9 minutes.

In cast iron skillet, heat a small amount of oil.  One by one, warm tortillas a few seconds on each side until a little blistered.  Let drain on paper towels.

To make enchiladas, take one tortilla and fill with a few good spoonfuls of the garlic and bean mixture.  Roll up tightly and place in a greased 9-by-13 baking dish.  Fill tortillas until all the bean mixture is gone.  If making the night before, stop here.  If not, pour salsa over enchiladas until covered.  Sprinkled cheese over top.  Bake in 375 degree oven until cheese is melted and salsa is bubbling, about 20-22 minutes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

 I hope your Thanksgiving is full of family, friends, laughter and a whole lot of pie!!

  Happy Thanksgiving from my crazy family to yours.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin Butter

I'm going to keep this short and sweet.  It is the week of Thanksgiving after all!!  There are pies to be made and pants to let out.  Turkeys to brine and wine to be drunk!  And I cannot wait!  Thanksgiving is, hands down, in my humble opinion, the absolute best holiday that ever was.  It is about being with family, making and then consuming gargantuan amounts of yummy food, and then finding some time before passing out on the couch for a nap or settling into a marathon game of Monopoly or Settlers of Catan, to think about all the things you are truly thankful for in your life.  There's just not a holiday out there that can top that.  

So, here is my offering for those few days after Thanksgiving when you are still overloaded with leftover turkey but feeling to fat to make anything really hearty, yet still craving something warm and homey because, goodness people, it's getting cold out there!  Pumpkin butter.  You can use that leftover pumpkin puree you had from all those pies and slather it over leftover biscuits or some crusty bread.  Stir it into some oatmeal for a warming breakfast.  Swirl some into Greek yogurt for a light dessert.  And enjoy it as your house fills up with the aroma of those cold weather spices.  And it may be a little early, but...  

Pumpkin Butter

Most of the time this takes the pumpkin is bubbling away on the stove, but don't go too far, you'll have to stir frequently.  The pumpkin is rather thick and sometimes steam gets trapped inside and pops pumpkin everywhere.  The more you stir the less mess you'll have to clean up afterwards!  Also, I was a little heavy handed with the spice, so expect a very spiced outcome or dial it back a little.  This exactly filled one Smuckers Strawberry Preserve jar perfectly.

1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1/3 c. apple juice
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground clove
9 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Lemon juice, to taste

Combine all ingredients, except for lemon juice, in large saucepan.  Stir together until thoroughly mixed.  Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer 30 to 40 minutes.  Stir very frequently and taste frequently.  Adjust spice to taste (remember, you can always add more, but you can't take it back if you add too much!!)  Near the end, stir in lemon juice to taste.

Cool mixture and transfer to an airtight container Keep refrigerated.  Spread on everything!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crusty French Bread

There is something about baking bread that makes me feel so accomplished.  It's the smell of my apartment all afternoon as the dough rises and then bakes and in the technique of shaping the dough.  Part of it is also in the time commitment.  Sure, the majority of the time the dough is left alone to rise in a dark, draft free hiding place, but hey, I spent the whole afternoon baking and I, I made bread.  You know, the sustenance of life.

At least that is how it all plays out in my head, my getting praise and domestic goddess awards for no other reason really besides the fact that chemistry was awesome enough to work, just like it always works.  But if you're going to insist, I really have no issue taking all the credit.  I did find the perfect dough rising place, and that's worth something, right?

According to be November issue of Cooking Light, these round loaves of crunchy goodness are coined Crunchy French Boules.  I've been calling it crusty bread, until just minutes ago when I decided to be fancy and throw a French in there too.  For the most part, I followed the instructions as given in the magazine, including making a few days beforehand the "pâte fermentée".  This pre-fermenting step was easy enough to throw together on a Wednesday night and I am told added great complexity to my bread.  I can not vouch for this one way or another, but general consensus is that pâte fermentée is a good thing and makes homemade bread all the better, so I would suggest you follow suit as well.

Now, to the heart of the matter, cookbook worthiness.  I am not sure that this is the crusty bread to reign forever in my Big Green Cookbook.  It was good and tasty and all the things crusty bread is supposed to be, it just wasn't the crusty bread. It tasted yummy with cheese and soup and dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with toasted garlic bits, it just wasn't the crusty bread.  So, it's on the bench for now.  It could very well be called in to play an inning or two, but it is second string at heart.  And the search is not over for my star crusty bread recipe.

Crusty French Bread
From November 2011's Issue of Cooking Light

pâte fermentée:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. warm water (100-110 deg. F)

bread dough:
3/4 c. warm water (100-110 deg. F)
1 tsp. active dry yeast
2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten (photo above)
1 tsp. salt
Cornmeal, to sprinkle

To make pâte fermentée, lightly spoon 1 c. of flour into measuring cup and level off.  Combine with yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  With mixer on low, slowly add warm water to flour mixture, beating until thoroughly combined.  Add additional flour, tablespoon by tablespoon until dough begins to pull away from the bowl.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.  Turn dough into small bowl coated with cooking spray.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been lightly spritzed with cooking spray.  Place in fridge for 24-72 hours, the longer it can sit the better.

Before baking bread, remove pâte fermentée from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

To make dough, add warm water to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle with yeast.  Let stand 5 minutes or so until water begins to bubble and foam.  Add room temperature pâte fermentée and let stand 10 minutes.  Add flour, vital wheat gluten and salt.  Beat on low speed until flour is just incorporated.  Increase mixer speed to medium and knead dough about 6 or 7 minutes, until dough forms a ball.  Turn out into a large bowl coated with cooking spray, lightly cover with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray.  Let rise in a dry, warm, draft free hiding space about 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.  (To check:  "gently press two fingers into dough.  If indentation remains, dough has risen enough")

Punch dough down and divide in half.  Knead each half for about 1 minute, slowly shaping it into a round bu pulling sides down, around and pinching under neath.  Dough should form a smooth, taunt surface.  Place dough on baking stone sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Return to warm, dry place and let rise  about 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place oven-proof dish with 3 inches of water on the lowest rack in the oven.

Once dough has risen, take a sharp nice and cut a tic-tac-toe pattern into the top of each loaf with 4 cuts, 1/4 inch deep.  Spritz tops lightly with water.  Move to oven and bake at 450 for 10 minutes.  Remove water pan from oven.  Bake for 15 minutes more or until crust is golden brown and crusty deliciousness.  When tapped on the bottom, the bread should sound hollow.  Cool on wire rack.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glazed

One thing that I am not too terribly proud to admit is the fact that I do routinely listen to Delilah.  Hear me out.  I like the music more often than not and I do sometimes like laughing at some of Momma Bear Delilah's advice.  It's my night time, doing dishes, sprucing up my living room, reading cookbooks music.  But then something tragic happened yesterday evening.  I turned on my radio and do you know the first song I heard?  Sleigh Ride.  Sleigh Ride, people.  It's November 10th.  Peeps, it is 45 days till Christmas.

Can I just tell you how wrong it is that 7 weeks before Christmas, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is coming across the radio waves?  It hasn't even snowed yet in Indiana (thank God), even thinking "Let It Snow" should be a crime punishable by the force feeding of mass amounts of turkey, mash potatoes and gravy.

All I am saying here is that Christmas music is really only enjoyable for so long and it's early November.  And every year, it seems as if the magic date when some people think Christmas music is acceptable creeps earlier and earlier.  If we continue at this rate, you will be burned out on Santa Baby before Thanksgiving even hits.  Is that what you want, Delilah?  There is no reason to rush towards the end of December when November is such a good month.  It has Thanksgiving, a grand holiday that does not deserve to be upstaged by Christmas.  It has chilly days when you just need a scarf and warm jacket and snow, thank God, is still a week or two off.  It has lazy Saturday mornings filled with the scent of pumpkin scones baking in your kitchen.  And, of course, it is my birthday month, which is just the spiced glaze on the pumpkin scone.  So, Delilah, I just want to let you know that November, in all of it's beautiful fall glory, does not need a soundtrack of Jingle Bell Rock.

So,  celebrate the great month of November and make these yummy pumpkin scones with spiced glazed and meanwhile I am going to rethink my Delilah allegiance.

Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glaze
Inspired by Bourbonnatrix Bakes

Note:  These flash freeze beautifully.  I made a batch of 12 for Ben and myself last weekend and flash froze them Friday night.  I pulled out 4 Saturday morning and baked them fresh.  And just knowing that I have 8 left in the freezer, ready to bake up all lovely and delicious makes me very happy.  Also, I think the amount of flour is off.  To make the dough even manageable I had to add several hand-fulls of flour.  I adjusted the recipe somewhat, but because I wasn't measuring, I went on the conservative side.  If you find yourself adding lots more flour, don't stress it, because I was in the same boat.  And you'll end up with beautiful pumpkin scones, so it's a good boat to be in!

2 1/2- 3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. + 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. half-and-half
1 large egg

Plain Glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. milk

Spiced Glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Add butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture. Fit mixer with paddle attachment and mix on low speed until butter pieces are about the size of small peas and mixture is course like cornmeal. 

In medium bowl, combine remaining scone ingredients.  Whisk wet ingredients till smooth.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together, gradually adding more flour until dough forms a ball and is only slightly sticky to the touch.  Turn out onto very well floured surface.  Use lots of flour to prevent dough from sticking to everything, and form a 1-inch thick rectangle (~4 inches by 12 inches)   Slice dough into 3 equal segments, then cut each segment into 4 in an X pattern, to make 12 triangular scones.  (see picture above!)   Place on prepared baking sheet.  

Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

To make glazes:  whisk together powdered sugar, milk and spices (for spiced glaze).  Depending on your consistency, add more powder sugar or milk as necessary.  Be careful adding milk!  You need lots of powdered sugar for every small dash of milk.  For the spiced glaze, I honestly didn't really measure, since I only baked up 4 scones.  Just taste frequently and you should be good!

Drizzle cooled scones with plain glaze, followed by spiced glaze.  Let dry for 10-15 minutes before eating.  Enjoy!!

To flash freeze: freeze scones flat on baking sheet for several hours.  Afterwards, move to a Ziploc baggie and keep in freezer until ready to use.  Scones can go right from the freezer to the oven, just add a few minutes to the baking time!