November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Goodness

Thanksgiving this year was small (I mean people definitely not food). We shared it with 3 other close friends and our host's 17 lb turkey was definitely big enough to fill us. M and one of our hosts had their annual Thanksgiving "Turkey Trot", a 3.7 mile run in the city so they were prepared to feast. This turkey was a champion too, it decided to cook itself two hours faster than it should have and somehow remain moist and tasty. Does diligent baking and dishwashing count as exercise too?

Dessert and Rolls are what M and I claimed for Thanksgiving this year. We also threw together a cranberry relish, because what is Thanksgiving without cranberries? Last year I made two different types of cranberry dishes because we received so many cranberries in our CSA box (I had never made them from scratch before). This year we managed to make the favorite of the two and somehow it seemed better than last. We did reminisce about the cranberry sauce that comes in a can and kind of slurps out. I used to love the stuff when I was a kid... oh how things have changed. The relish was probably the easiest and least time consuming of the recipes we made - 5 minutes tops. The Creme Brulee wasn't too difficult to prepare, it required 2 hours chilling time, and the rolls needed ample time to rise in our freezing apartment (thank you gas stove for staying warm while you weren't baking to help out the process).

Rolls, rolls, giant rolls. They were so good (and we have some leftover... yeah!) M managed to recreate his mom's roll recipe from scratch very well this year. I'd say he is a pro after only one year of practice. He decided it would be best to make them really big. I'm pretty sure he was really hungry while making them and may have altered his reasoning for size of roll discernment. I asked M to say a little something about his bread making...

"I love these rolls. I grew up with them at Thanksgiving and Christmas and it's the one food item I refuse to go through the holidays without. They take a good amount of love to make, with excessive amounts of kneading and careful oven monitoring and can easily go south quickly. Too little or too much kneading, cheap yeast, too little butter spread, too much poppy seed, a minute overcooked, a minute undercooked, a burnt tip... It's an investment in time and patience and will leave your muscles sore from stirring and kneading dough. This year I'm happy to say they were perfect and I was like a giddy little kid stealing a fresh-out-of-the-oven roll to enjoy, plus it gave me an excuse to wear an apron."

needs more flour

kneading - I think he was getting tired

expert slicing with the handy pizza cutter

8 rolls per third of dough - this is what made them the size of your face

perfect rolls

M devouring fresh from the oven rolls

M may have eaten the whole basket if I hadn't been watching

Look at that buttery goodness!

I'm pretty sure this is going to be his traditional dish for Thanksgivings to come. And whether they show up next year the size of your face I guess we'll wait and see.

I was flipping through a cookbook and stumbled upon some interesting pumpkin recipes like Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse and Pumpkin Creme Brulee, and after a vote the Brulee won. I haven't ever made any type of Creme Brulee and I was excited to try it. Thanks Em for letting me borrow ramekins so I didn't have to clutter the tiny kitchen with dishes that are very seldom used.

I actually made my own pumpkin puree from my cute little sugar pumpkin from our Farm Fresh box. Making your own puree is time consuming but very easy. I used the wise words of The Pioneer Woman to make mine, and I definitely had to add water to make the right consistency. I was very proud to say the least. My little pumpkin made about 2 1/2 cups so I'll be making something else to contribute the the pumpkin extravaganza. I have my eyes on Pumpkin Butter and possibly a pumpkin cheesecake just for fun.

I only had one judgement issue for the creme brulee and that was "the brulee will be done when they give a uniform jiggle" and it was hard to discern when the jiggle was "uniform" or if it was too jiggly. Needless to say, I may have overcooked them just a hair. After the cooking they needed to cool for a couple of hours. Before serving all you have to do is torch them. You can also use your broiler if you don't have a torch. I would have used the broiler had our hosts not had a torch. It worked well, and it was fun to watch the sugar liquify. The only thing more satisfying was breaking through the sugar into the pumpkin creme below. They were tasty little pots of goodness.

In addition to our contributions, we had a deliciously moist turkey with sausage stuffing, mashed sweet and russet potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole with mushrooms and onion, and fruity jello pudding salad (one of those midwestern roots dishes). Our meal was great and our company was too. All of our suffering was worth it though. Thanks everyone for sharing a great holiday with us.

Cranberry Relish
makes about 3 cups

1 small navel orange (or 2 clementines - which is what we had on hand)
1 pear
1 12-oz bag cranberries
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp salt to taste
3 T chopped toasted pecans

Slice the orange and pear into segments and toss into the food processor (keep the rind on both). Add the sugar and cranberries and salt and pulse a few times. Process until you get a coarse chop for all of the fruits, stopping to stir if necessary. We processed ours a little smaller this year which may have made it a little juicier than typical. Cover tightly and refrigerate for two hours. Sprinkle the nuts on top just before serving.

The relish is also delicious as a topping for waffles or pancakes! I hope this comes in handy for the Christmas season.

November 27, 2009

Easy Bake cOven - Thanksgiving Pie

For this months Easy Bake cOven recipe, Elisa chose pie. Since this month begins the holiday season and seems to require a lot of baking, Elisa thought it would be best for our recipe to contribute to the Thanksgiving meal. Why is pie so traditional anyways? Maybe because it is so delicious.... I made another dish to accompany our Pie, Pumpkin Creme Brulee, which I will post about separate from the Easy Bake cOven pie.
It was hard for me to veer away from pumpkin pie since I am obsessed with it, but M thought it would be best not to have two desserts of the same origin. I made Chocolate Pecan Pie instead because I had all of the ingredients on hand. I can't believe we went through so many eggs in one day (an entire dozen in only 3 dishes). The pie was one of Emeril's recipes which I find can be hit or miss. It looked really nice and the crust came out flaky and crispy.
The filling was incredibly rich, and I would recommend refrigerating this after it is cool so the filling firms up a little more. When we cut into it, the pie was a little bit runny. I don't know if this had to do with the ratio of liquid to solid - or if I should have baked it a few minutes longer (covered of course). It was good, runny or not. Having a slice of this pie actually took me over the edge just a little. We drank a great bottle of Merlot with it (Merlot + chocolate is an amazing combination) which made the pie so much more intense. I love this holiday, I don't love the feeling you get after you eat way more than you should in one sitting. I'd like to compare this recipe to my mother in law's just to see if there was something I could change to help it solidify. Oh, and Emeril has a caramel sauce to top it with, but that seems a little excessive. I can't imagine making a rich pie even more intense!
I didn't use the crust recipes Elisa included because I wanted to try a new one from my new cookbook. It turned out so well I want to share it with you all.
Pie Crust
Yields 2 crusts
2 1/2 C flour
2 T sugar
2 sticks butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 C ice water
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar champagne vinegar (i didn't have either and used vodka instead)
Cut butter into one inch pieces (really big chunks) and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. Sift flour and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the frozen butter and salt and mix for about 2 minutes or until the butter looks like walnut pieces. Stop the machine and pinch any remaining large hunks of butter by hand. Mix the vinegar with the cold water, turn the mixer on low and add to the dough all at once. Mix until the dough just comes together -15 seconds or so. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into two pieces and roll out. You can keep the extra crust in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 weeks.
Be sure to check out the cOven in the next few days to see everyone's Thanksgiving pie creations - or check below for those who linked their blog to mine! Happy leftover eating!
The Lovely Lady Baker

November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Ideas

Hopefully all of you have already planned your thanksgiving dinners, but if you are attempting to find one more thing to make I have some ideas. Well, not quite ideas, but great direction. On my daily blog search I have come across a few good resources for you. Some are more informational, some are recipes, but they have one thing in common.... they all look delicious. I'm looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with close friends - great food and wine as well.
Photo: Pioneer Woman, Turkey
Will you be able to master all of the foods you can't live without! Good Luck!
Trust the Pioneer Woman and her schedule for cooking and if you like to brine your turkey you might want to start soon!
For all of your Pumpkin cravings.... I think this guy might like pumpkin more than me (if that is possible) and he has some Thanksgiving ideas as well...
and Smitten Kitchen has some very non traditional ideas too.
Photo: Smitten Kitchen, Brussel Sprouts and Chestnuts in brown butter

November 18, 2009

Baby Cake

There is going to be a new baby amongst our group of friends soon. I feel like a lot of my friends I grew up with are already experiencing this or have experienced it or have their own baby. For M and I things are a little different. People in the city tend to wait longer to have children than our midwestern roots, so we haven't experienced the baby craze just yet. I'm pretty sure it is just beginning and it is quite fun. I really love babies. They are so cute and sweet and once they start to cry you can give them back (hehe at least for now).
Baby is coming in less than a month so of course we had to celebrate. Our friend organized a very non-traditional couples shower where we only played one baby game that had nothing to do with melted candy bars in diapers. More like a regular party with lots of food and drinks, I think our couple had a good time. They also received some cutesy baby gifts and a bunch of babysitting offers.
I was asked to make a cake. Go figure... The funny thing is that the dad-to-be is allergic to pretty much everything so I had to default to a known favorite that I knew wouldn't kill him. Gingerbread Cake. I made it for his last birthday and they both really liked it. Safe. I also had intention of making it really cute since there wasn't going to be much of that at the shower. I have been looking for a reason to try out fondant too. I made marshmallow fondant in a very small quantity for my nephew's birthday cupcakes (coming soon) but never covered an entire cake with it. I got some tips from a friendly salesman at the baking supply store and it turned out great.
Fondant is pretty simple. I would like to try and make my own sometime but for now I stuck with Wilton. Once I kneaded it enough it was easy to roll. I didn't really figure out how to cover the corners of a square cake so I decided to drape it around like a little blanket. It looked really cute and no one would have known otherwise. I also wanted to make block letters and they turned out super cute too. Thanks to my lovely assistant and friend Emily (who makes amazing cookies by the way) for ideas and help finishing the cake. "baby" blocks and polka dots. This was great practice to cakes to come (at least I hope).
Gingerbread Cake
(1 9 inch cake) Printer Friendly
1 stick butter
1/2 C brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 C molasses
2 eggs
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C buttermilk
Lemon Frosting
4 T butter
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon extract
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 C sifted powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350˚. butter and flour a 9" pan. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the molasses and eggs one at a time. Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla to the buttermilk. Alternate 1/3 flour and 1/2 buttermilk until completely blended. Smooth the top and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, run a knife around the edge and un-mold onto a wire rack. Optional - Cut cake in half and spread with Lemon curd, or raspberry preserves. It is best when left overnight to absorb the filling. Frost and serve.

November 14, 2009

Monkey Bread

I love monkey bread. It never occurred to me that people did not know what this delicious bread was until I was making it for brunch. My friend told me she never heard of it until college and she was on the phone with another friend who had never heard of it either. So, for those of you in the same boat I welcome you to the land of deliciousness... Monkey Bread is a sweet pull-apart bread made of mini rolls dipped in a sugar/butter mix and baked into a sticky gooey mess. It is great for brunch or even dessert and unfortunately has nothing to do with real Monkeys.
I like my monkey bread gooey. If it isn't gooey it just isn't as good. I haven't made this since high school probably when I used my best friends' mom's recipe. She used frozen dinner rolls and some butterscotch pudding packets and some other things I can't remember. It sounds weird but tastes delicious. It is also super easy to make since you let the rolls rise overnight. The one I made for brunch I made from scratch. It also had currants which I have never seen before, but my cookbook says this is the original way to make it (and I happen to keep them in the pantry). The taste was great but my yeast was almost dead. The bread didn't rise as much as planned so it was pretty dense.
Making these the morning of your breakfast is a little difficult since the bread requires a lot of rising time. Not so terrible if you are a morning person and you are having a brunch or late breakfast. I think I was a morning person once.... Making this from complete scratch is a toss up for me. Had the bread turned out light and fluffy as it should have I might have loved it enough to make it from scratch again. I should go ahead and try since the yeast was a major factor in taste and texture. Only then will I be able to fully decide whether or not this bread should be a scratch dough or not. Maybe I'll do a side by side taste test of both. Hmmm, maybe the perfect addition to Christmas breakfast....
I have attached the recipe for all of you curious bread makers (who either love Monkey bread or are interested in giving it a try). Good luck, and buy new yeast!
Monkey Bread
2 packages yeast
1 C sugar
1/2 C warm water (110˚-115˚)
2 sticks butter divided
1 1/2 T salt
1 C warm milk
3 eggs + 2 yolks
6-7 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C currants plumped
Proof yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl. Stir 1 stick butter into the warm milk. Add to the yeast mixture and stir in eggs. Beat until combined. Add the flour one cup at a time until you get to 5 cups. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead in as much of the 2 C as you need to make a silky dough. Knead 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and put it in a buttered dish, cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place until it doubles.
Punch down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead a few turns with 1 T flour and rest for another 5-10 minutes (I told you it would take a while). Butter a 10 inch tube pan. In a saucepan melt 1 stick butter and the brown sugar in a saucepan. Add in the currants and remove from heat. Pinch off dough in golfball size amounts, roll into balls and then into the butter mixture. Layer into the bottom of the pan. Once all are in, pour remaining butter mix over the top, tent loosely with foil and let the dough rise to the top of the pan. Bake in a 375˚ oven for about an hour. It will be done with the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Invert onto a serving dish and serve warm to pull apart.

November 13, 2009

Pumpkin Extravaganza

Have I mentioned before that I adore pumpkin. Really anything from the squash family I will eat without question. I'm looking forward to fall and all of the interesting winter squash our Farm Fresh produce will bring. If anyone has any great recipes to share, I'd love to cook something new.

For now (whilst my dear pumpkins are decorating the house for the season) I have been busy with the canned version. Over the next few posts I hope to share some of my favorite pumpkin recipes including this first post about a very versatile bread base. I found a recipe a few years back on the website that I have altered many times to cut the fat. It can be turned into loaves of bread or muffins, or a combination if you use the whole recipe. It tastes great with nuts or chocolate chips, and this time I made a loaf with green pumpkin seeds. All delicious.

Pumpkin is something I never grow tired of, and one of the first pies I made from scratch. It is so simple to use from a can, especially since the canned pumpkin folks haven't added strange life extending chemicals to the mix. I am happy to say that my can of pumpkin contains solely "pumpkin". Pumpkin from scratch is good as well but a lot more work. First you have to cut it in pieces which may be a challenge if you don't have a super sharp chef's knife. Then you wait around while it roasts, then you scoop out the contents, then you blend it up and hope your pumpkin was big enough to yield more than enough for you recipe. I enjoy cooking it from scratch every now and then, but typically I am using a butternut squash and making an amazing soup. Maybe this year I'll try and recreate one of my favorite dishes, pumpkin curry with chicken....

I used the entire recipe below and made muffins - half with chocolate chips and half with a crumb topping. I had the crumb topping left over from the apple crisp and will say that it was not the most interesting addition to the muffin. Chocolate chips on the other hand are amazing. Pumpkin and chocolate go together well. I was mildly depressed that I hadn't just made the whole batch with chocolate chips (I think M was too). The other half of the batter I dumped into my loaf pan and topped it generously with green pumpkin seeds. These are really tasty seeds and when added to the top of the bread toast very well. I don't much like my muffins to taste like they should be a dessert so I steer clear of the cream cheese filling. A dear woman who my sister and I call "grandma Blanch" makes a very heavy pie with cream cheese and lots of whipped topping. I can only eat a sliver of it. I can however eat a decent slice of pumpkin cheesecake (which I should make for this Extravaganza). I hope you find some canned pumpkin to try out the upcoming recipes with. If you have any great ideas let me know!

Pumpkin Bread Base

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

4 eggs

1/2 C vegetable oil

1/2 C plain yogurt

2/3 C water

2 C white sugar

3 1/2 C all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground ginger

and a splash of vanilla if you feel like it

1/2 C chocolate chips, 1/4 C pumpkin seeds, 1/4 C walnuts or almonds chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease and flour one 9x4 inch loaf pan and line 12 muffin cups. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, yogurt, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Fill the muffins 2/3 full and pour the rest into the loaf pan. Bake muffins for 25 minutes and the loaf for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

November 8, 2009

Mini Fruit Pizzas

Every time I make these I wonder why I don't make them more often. They are so delicious and very easy individual desserts for a group. I learned to make fruit pizza with my mom when she was a Pampered Chef consultant around the time I was in middle school. They were always one of my favorite things to help with, especially slicing the kiwis with the fancy egg slicer. I don't have an egg slicer now (and probably don't need one) but making them was just as fun.
M and I actually made these in tag-team fashion. We were making some foods for our monthly family dinner and the theme this month was "baby food" in honor of the host family and their little one on the way. We didn't eat mashed up foods (though I was surprised no one made anything resembling baby food) and instead ate miniature sized foods - like sliders and croissant wrapped wieners. We also had pot stickers, stuffed mushrooms, mini quiches, and an assortment of small veggies and fruits. (our hosts even bought mini limes for our cocktails.) We made roasted beets sliced on toasted baguette with a schmear of goat cheese, sprinkled with toasted walnuts and fresh thyme. We also decided to make mini fruit pizzas with cream cheese frosting and a sugar cookie base.
I used to cheat and buy the pillsbury log of sugar cookie dough and roll it out into a large round disk about 1/4 inch thick (which is totally fine) but decided to make the sugar cookie dough myself. I wanted to find a recipe that would be a good addition to the box for cut out sugar cookies. I think I found a good match but the true test will come when it is not loaded with cream cheese and fruits. Thankfully I have 101 cookie cutters waiting to test out the dough. I baked the cookies and M finished them with frosting and fruits. He did a fantastic job I must say, arranging them with a slice of kiwi, banana, pear, strawberries and a raspberry. Yum! Had they not been 3 inch cookies I may have gone for a second (maybe eating a few mini s'mores and petit fours didn't help the decision).
The cookie baked up nicely. It wasn't crispy like some sugar cookies can be and was delicious after a short period of refrigeration. I will have to remember to make these again. Maybe M will help that memory since he seemed to enjoy them so much.
Mini Fruit Pizzas
Sugar Cookie Base
Yields about 30 1/4 inch thick cookies
3/4 C butter softened
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C flour + 1/2 C as needed
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer with the paddle attachment for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time. Add in the vanilla. Whisk the dry ingredients and add into the mix all at once mix on low speed until fully incorporated. If the batter seems to sticky add up to 1/2 C more flour. Divide dough in half and wrap each with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes and bake for 6-8 minutes at 400˚. Cool completely on a wire rack. Frost as desired.
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Cream together with a mixer and frost the cookies equally.
Another option for frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
1 jar marshmallow fluff
Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature. Mix together with fluff with an electric mixer. Frost. (this was the traditional Pampered Chef Frosting)
Any assortment of seasonal fruit that is ripe and won't brown too much sliced thin and arranged on top of the frosted cookie. If you find your fruits are sliding, use an extra dollop of frosting on the top of some fruits to make them stick.

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