January 30, 2010

Easy Bake cOven - Lemon Bars by Tartine

I have a recipe for lemon bars that I really like. I like to think it was I who brought them back into fashion here in san francisco, but more realistically it was Tartine Bakery. They definitely serve more people in one day than I have possibly my whole "baking career". Every now and then I thumb through their cookbook when I'm at Therapy (one of the best stores ever) and never quite bring myself to buy a copy. Maybe it's because I know they are making a killing at their bakery (and newer restaurant) and feel no need to add to their success. But that might be a little harsh.... More likely, a flash of the overstuffed shelf of cookbooks I own enters my mind and I can't seem to find a place for it. I'm glad Angela chose this recipe for January. Even though I tend to think of lemon bars as a summery dessert - I brought them to life in our kitchen on this sunny Sunday (if only we hadn't eaten giant souffles for dinner we may have been able to enjoy them).
I was quite intrigued by this recipe. The shortcrust contains pine nuts - which sounded delicious and weird all at the same time. It also said you could use orange zest of a particular variety if available which was also interesting. Lemon bars with pine nuts and orange zest. I did not go searching for this specific orange but did opt to try the pine nuts. I wanted to do the crust a little different though and rather than leaving the nuts whole, I processed them until they resembled fine crumbs and mixed them in to the dough. I also wanted to make them into little tarts so I could experiment with different toppings. My lemon bars were more like mini lemon pies serving 4-6 people. Can't forget to thank the landlord for having my oven fixed on Friday! I actually thought I might miss the January recipe because of it.
Do I like these more than my own recipe? I can tell you they are different enough to make an easy choose. I like my very simple crunchy crust with just enough lemon to satisfy a craving - but these are a good change. Thick crust and a almost double the amount of filling I would normally use - they were nice with the hint of nuts. The filling was also a little bit creamier than the normal. Very tart with a nice nutty depth of flavor. I might try serving one with chopped toasted pine nuts.
If you would like to try out the recipe from Tartine, find the original post here. And don't forget to check out the rest of the lemon bars at the cOven blog.

January 26, 2010

The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks Mac N Cheese

I didn't plan for my first episode of The Lovely Lady Baker Cooks to be something as simple as Mac N Cheese, but it is definitely good enough to share. I promise the next cooking recipe will be much more acceptable in the realm of cooking and not involve loads of cheese (sorry to the cheese lovers out there).
M and I made a version of this macaroni a few years ago. It is apparent we don't eat a lot of macaroni and cheese. I bought a hunk of Smoked Gouda recently and wanted to make sure we used it before it spoiled. I must tell you a sad story before I go on.... My oven is dead. (insert sobs here). I have attempted to make use of the little toaster oven I have used for 3.5 years to make toast to actually cook things. It is supposed to - so I said why not. I am afraid to bake in it. I might have to if the landlord doesn't act quickly enough for me. I may develop acute depression if I can't bake soon. Ok, back to mac and cheese....
This macaroni is very rich, not too sharp, and definitely creamy. White pepper is a definite must if you don't have it already in your spice cabinet. Although I don't recommend eating macaroni every week, once in a while is acceptable! Everything in moderation, right? Right. Oh, and you can probably eat it more often that once every two years. So, try this recipe if you feel gouda. (oh, I couldn't resist!)
Smoked Gouda Mac N Cheese
inspired long ago by Emeril
2 C ditalini pasta
1 C milk
1 T butter
1 heaping spoonful flour
1/4 tsp white pepper
10 cracks black pepper
2 C shredded Smoked Gouda cheese
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Boil pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and whisk constantly until thick - about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk (keep whisking) and cook over medium heat until the b├ęchamel sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add white pepper, whisk to combine. Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese slowly until smooth. Mix in the cooked pasta - toss to coat. Salt to taste - though the cheese is already salty and you probably don't need to add any. Pour macaroni into a greased baking dish and crack fresh pepper on top. Place the macaroni into the oven for about 15 minutes until the top browns. Serve immediately.
Stay tuned for more non-baking recipes!

January 20, 2010

Ice Cream in a Profiterole Bowl

One night after we returned from Christmas vacation I was sitting on the couch reading my cookbooks. I'm not lying, I do this often and no - it's not weird... it's Inspiring. Especially when there are gorgeous pictures to accompany the recipes. While reading I started to think about how sad it was that my lovely M didn't get to have any of his family's traditional Springerles cookies this holiday. In that moment of weakness I put behind my hatred for this plant called Anise and decided to make Ice Cream flavored with it. If you aren't really sure what I'm talking about, Anise has a flavor that resembles licorice, fennel, and tarragon emphasis on the licorice. I really don't like it at all - especially in those Austrian treats they gobble up by the handful (or bucket full if they have the chance). I was highly unsure what to expect, but I took David Lebovits' word for it (I guess he hates it too) and used the seeds for flavor in said experimental ice cream.
Since the cream is flavored using the seeds it is quite a bit more mild than anything using extract. The aroma that came from toasting the seeds and steeping them with hot cream was rich and nutty with just a hint of licorice coming through. Once I finished the cream base (chilled and churned) I snuck a little taste and lo and behold I actually thought it was good. Amazing! M snuck some spoonfulls before we froze it and decided it was going to be fantastic (though I'm not sure that was his choice word). It was hard to keep him out of the ice cream container for the next few days following.
No, I'm not some controlling baking witch who tempts my husband with ice cream he can't eat... I just wanted him to wait for the vessel. Mr. Lebovits mentions in the recipe that he enjoys this ice cream in a profiterole with chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Who wouldn't really? So I decided to try making them too. Since I was planning so many fancy treats to accompany this delicioso ice cream I decided to make an event of it. Ice Cream Night! Basically, we have to share all of this fat with our friends so we don't explode out of our little 750 sq ft apartment. Getting fat with your friends couldn't be more enjoyable.
The Profiteroles were a bit of a challenge. I don't believe I had ever had one before. I'm not drawn to cream puffs (I hear beard papa is pretty good) so I have never had the itch to make them. I had never seen them made. I had no idea what the dough should look like. While the Ice Cream recipes provide very explicit instruction, some of the extra recipes - like profiteroles - could use some more info (weblink below is much better). My first attempt was pretty bad to say the least. I didn't mix the dough correctly in the beginning - liquid was not hot enough - so I ended up adding too much flour and turned what was supposed to be airy puffs into dense cracker biscuits. You see the picture. You know it's true. I just wanted to remind you we all have bad baking experiences - but that shouldn't make you want to give up. I didn't and I only had an hour before guests were supposed to arrive for ice cream and Profiteroles. It would have been sad without them.
Determined to succeed, I flipped open the mac and perused the internet for advice for what I did wrong. I found a lovely video from a Barefoot Contessa episode and spent the next five minutes watching Ina make some beautiful airy puffs. In the end I combined both recipes to make what I feel was the perfect vessel for this ice cream. They actually puffed like they were supposed to - and they were the perfect size for a little scoop of ice cream. Topped with some decadent chocolate sauce, they were quite irresistible. I also converted some Anise haters like myself. They liked my ice cream more than the back up (I bought some extra just so we wouldn't run out). I really like when things turn out well. It makes me happy to feed people.
Profiteroles
Inspired by Ina Garten and David Lebovits
1 C whole milk
1 stick butter
2 tsp sugar
pinch salt
1 C flour
4 eggs
1 T milk + 1 egg yolk for brushing tops (optional)
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Over medium heat, melt butter with milk, sugar, and salt to scalding. Add in all of the flour at once - this is important - and stir like mad until it forms a ball in the pan. Keep stirring over the heat for a couple of minutes. Immediately plop the dough into your food processor (or you can stir like mad with a wooden spoon and your arm power) and add the eggs all at once. It is a good idea to crack them all into a measuring cup to speed along the process and insure that the eggs don't cook. Pulse to combine and run on high until the mixture is fluffy and all egg is incorporated - 30 seconds tops. (If doing this by hand, mix in one egg at a time very quickly). Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large 1/2 inch tip and pipe 1 1/2 inch puffs onto a silicone mat lined baking sheet. Leave about 1 inch between puffs. Bake for 20 minutes, turn off the oven and leave for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. They should have a nice cavity in the middle for your ice cream. Cut in half across the middle and fill. Serve with Chocolate Sauce, or candied nuts.
Oh, and M's grandma was so sweet to send some cookies to her lovely grandson after Christmas! He still has some in a little snowflake container in the kitchen. I believe he is milking them for as long as possible. There will come a day when I am forced to make these licorice cookies for M, but until then Grandma can do the honors.

January 12, 2010

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Funny that my second entry in the world of Whole Wheat is also pumpkin. I guess I just can't help myself.... I do have another recipe waiting for the next round of whole wheat experimentation and it does not contain pumpkin at all.
So, I've been sick.... Which gives me loads of time to scour the internet for intriguing recipes and I have found a few. Some regular food and some baking. I'm a little nervous about this idea I had to blog about one food item each month. I am actually pretty bad at cooking. For some reason (mostly it has to do with following directions) I am a much better baker than cook. I leave that to M, but sometimes I try my hand at dinner. I mostly stick to soups and very simple pastas but every now and then I make something entirely too bland (like pumpkin curry - which should be the farthest from bland as possible). Anyways, hopefully one of these recipes I have found will make it's way to the baking blog and who knows it might be great!
I felt so useless around the house, I tried to muster up enough energy to make some food. It worked (but my sinuses are still a bother). I tried this recipe for Whole Wheat muffins graced with the presence of pumpkin, cranberries, and walnuts. I adapted it from the source a bit to suit what ingredients I had on hand and I think they turned out well. At least much better than the Scones.
While it is going to take some getting used to, baking and eating more whole wheat will be fun. And if fun is not the right word it will at least be healthy. I don't much like healthy.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins with Cranberries and Walnuts

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2 1/2 C whole wheat flour 2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cloves

1 C pumpkin puree 2 T canola oil 1/2 C sugar (plus more for the tops)

2 eggs 3/4 C buttermilk 1 tsp vanilla

1/2 C sweetened dried cranberries 1/2 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375˚ F. Lightly grease a standard size 12 cup muffin tin. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugar, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir together until just combined. If you think the batter is a little dry add 2 T more buttermilk. (It is ok if there are bits of flour remaining because the worst thing you can do is overmix!). Fold in the cranberries and walnuts. Divide batter evenly between 12 muffin cups. Bake 20-23 minutes. Muffins are done when they spring back lightly to the touch or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. They will be very tall and hearty.

Original Recipe adapted from Pinch My Salt

January 8, 2010

Fudge

Growing up, we always had fudge around the holidays. My Great Great Grandmother passed down her peanut butter fudge recipe from the Great Depression and most of my dad's side of the family makes it in tradition now. The story is that she used to make this fudge just before the peanut butter spoiled (I suppose peanut butter was much better for you then). It was a treat for the family and a way to avoid wasting food. I wish I were this good about not wasting food! (especially since she made candy out of it). Sometimes we avoid produce like kale a little too long and it spoils. Apparently not my Great Great Grandma. If I could figure out how to make Kale into candy I might eat it more often.... I can't remember how old I was when I started helping with the fudge making. It is a bit tricky because the recipe doesn't have Alton Brown food science behind it. You actually have to know terms like "softball stage" and be able to decipher when the gloss is beaten out. I didn't make the peanut butter fudge this holiday, but I did turn to a very simple (you might even say cheater) recipe given to me my M's aunt. I believe it appeared in the Chronicle years ago and she has been making it since. The super easy fudge recipe doesn't require a thermometer and consists of three base ingredients: Chocolate, Vanilla, Sweetened Condensed Milk. You can add in what you like. I decided this would be a good item to send to my brother in law who is currently out of the country. I sent some candied pecans as well and don't know for sure yet whether they made it. I made 24 little fudge balls in my mini muffin tin complete with snowman paper liners. I'm sure he will appreciate all of the cuteness (note the sarcasm here). If you can microwave chocolate without burning it, you should try this recipe, if this sounds terrifying, just stick with a double boiler. I like to use semi sweet chocolate or darker chocolate since the sweetened condensed milk has such a high sugar content. In the past I have added nuts, Andes Mints, and peanut butter chips. This time I just added white chocolate chips because they seemed least likely for someone to dislike.
The only trick to this fudge is not overheating the chocolate. It takes as few as three 30 second intervals in the microwave to melt. Just remember to stir a lot after every zap. The less time in the microwave the better. Like I said before, you can still use a double boiler if you want, the microwave just makes it that much easier (and leaves fewer dishes to wash afterwards). The final product is not going to be as good as something from a fancy fudge shop, but it's still worth trying. If you don't overheat it, it will be creamy, and depending on the additions it will have a nice texture.
I'm including my family recipe for you to try if you wish. It takes a few tries to master unless you are a skilled candy maker. I might try it again to see if I can make the instructions more descriptive. I don't plan on making it very soon... all of the holiday candy is making me feel guilty about my lack of exercise during our visit home.
Fool Proof Fudge San Francisco Chronicle 18 oz chocolate 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk 1 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/2 C chopped nuts (or whatever you wish to add) Prepare an 8x8 inch pan by lining it with waxed paper, set aside. Melt Chocolate with sweetened condensed milk in a double boiler or the microwave. Working quickly, stir in vanilla, then nuts and spread into prepared baking dish. You can reserve some of the nuts for the top or add additional nuts to the top - press them in slightly. Chill for 2 hours, remove from pan and peel off waxed paper. Cut into 1 inch squares and store covered at room temperature. Great Great Grandma's Peanut Butter Fudge
2 C sugar
3/4 C milk
5 Heaping Tablespoons of plain or chunky Peanut Butter
Mix ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until it reaches soft ball stage, stirring constantly. (Check for soft ball stage frequently). Remove from heat and beat with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until mixture loses most of its gloss. Transfer to a buttered pie tin or 8x8 square pan. Let cool and cut into squares.

January 4, 2010

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones

Remember what I said in my last post about baking more with whole wheat? Well, I've done it. (or at least started it). It is quite funny really... I woke up on the first and decided to be sweet and cook something for breakfast. I'm not a super huge eggs fan so I defaulted to baked goods. I rummaged through the cabinets to see what I had to work with. I usually know these things, but hey, I was gone for the holiday and forgot.
I found I had a small amount of all purpose flour and a large amount of self-rising flour (if any of you can tell me what to do with this I'm ready relieve space in my tiny cabinets). Sitting next to these was my hardly-used whole wheat flour bag. It looked so sad, all full, fat, and neglected. It's true. I don't use whole wheat flour much. I should but I don't. In order to make this little bag of flour happy I searched for something to make with pumpkin that I needed to use. I found a scone recipe and decided to give it a go. After all, the recipe swore you couldn't tell they were made of whole wheat. Skeptical, I started the scone process. I forgot to check for butter in my wasteland of a fridge and turned up empty. I thought about attempting the Earth Balance spread but decided that stuff was too expensive to waste (just in case) and adapted the recipe using shortening. At the time, I was thinking... "a scone is like a biscuit - so I could probably substitute shortening for butter... they just won't taste as good." So I went for it and cut in shortening instead of butter. Mixed everything as required and sliced 8 scones. Baked 'em up fairly quick and just in time for M to arrive in the kitchen. (He slept in - and by arrived in the kitchen, I mean walked 10 steps from the bedroom to see what smelled good).
I was on my second cup of tea and decided to snap a few pictures while I had good light. All this time wondering if they were going to taste like cardboard or not. And oh the wait was finally over....
Eh, I guess they were fine. A little bland and lacking strong pumpkin flavor, we decided to eat them like the British and topped them with a slab of butter. If we only had clotted cream... At least I remembered to add a big handful of chocolate chips which helped some. I don't think I will make these again, and to save you I'm not posting the recipe here. I'll definitely find some more whole wheat recipes but from a trusted source. So all of you trusted sources out there - send me your favorite whole wheat baked good recipe! Don't worry either, I'm not at all distressed that the first recipe of the year was not a huge success. It just means I have a lot more room to improve.

January 1, 2010

My Top Ten of 2009

Today is the first day of 2010, so Happy New Year to you all. I thought today would be a good day to reflect on the past year of my blog and I have decided to recount my top ten recipes. Before we reflect, I'm going to tell you all about my baking plans for this year, resolution style. I don't typically make resolutions because they tend to get shoved aside or are so unrealistic that they are on the skirts of achievability. Food related resolutions are new for me and definitely attainable. Do you all have resolutions for the new year?


I'm going to attempt to use more whole wheat flour. Not so much for health reasons, mostly because I tend to run out of all purpose flour all of the time and the whole wheat bag sits in the cupboard feeling unwanted and depressed. If I had a repertoire of more whole wheat recipes I would definitely cook with it more often.


I'm going to try hard and not skip the Daring Bakers Challenges for the whole year. This will require me to plan ahead, not procrastinate, and make some items I don't like. It is difficult when you know the recipe at the beginning of the month and don't have to post something until the very end. I might have to make up more reasons to celebrate with baked goods during the month.


I am going to make more bread. Plain and simple. I can't really say quantity-wise what "more" is equal to, I'm just going to make more of it. I have a lot of great cookbooks at my fingertips and I enjoy bread a lot. (I believe I've mentioned before bread is one of my favorite smells). It would also be nice to have more home made bread with dinners or lunches. I'm not limiting myself to just hand made either, I'll bring my bread machine to this challenge too. 


I am going to post at least one non baking item each month. M and I cook a lot and I think some of these meals you might enjoy too. We have a plethora of food delivered to us twice a month from our local CSA and we cook with it each week, so why not share it too? After all, people who read this might not have the itch to bake quite as often as I do.


I would like to celebrate food more. This means all of you in San Fran might gain a few pounds with me. In an effort to appreciate the Slow Food Movement, and because M and I like to host dinners, I want to have people over more often for food. Cooking and eating together, good wine, what more could you ask for? (I haven't discussed this one with M yet, but I'm pretty sure he will be ok with it).


I think this is enough resolutions for now, I'll let you know if I come up with more later. Now, on with this recap of my favorites from '09. (What do we call 10 by the way? It seems so awkward without the "O" in front of it). Here they are in random order.


Savory Puff Pastry

I enjoyed this Challenge for Daring Bakers. We made puff pastry from scratch (which I may never do again) and I came up with this savory topping. I absolutely loved them. You can make it store bought pastry but I definitely recommend trying the filling. 


Wedding Cake

Making a wedding cake is one of the highlights of my year. The challenge of it was unreal. I would love to make another if the opportunity presents itself. 


Four Cheesecakes

I like cheesecake. I don't make it often because it is so terrible for you (though most of the desserts I make are not "good" for you) so I made the most of it using 4" mini spring-form pans. They were so cute and tasty. I'd definitely make some of them again. 


Cookie Cake Tower

Who would not like a three layer cookie cake for their birthday? I chose this one because I felt it was creative and good. Not to forget it traveled from California to Virginia in one piece! 


French Style Bread

Bread, one of the techniques I attempted to master this year. I can't say I am a master yet (hence the resolution to continue making more of it this year) but one day I might make bread like my dad numero dos. This french loaf was one of M's favorites his dad made growing up, and I wanted to continue the traditions. It makes two loaves so you can save one for later or feed a lot of people. 


Carrot Muffins

Are you wondering why there is a picture of carrots here? It is because carrot muffins come from my early days of the blog when I was not obsessed with taking photos of food (or they were so good we ate them all before I could snap a shot). I didn't post the recipe in my original post so you are welcome to view it here


Frozen Lime Pie

Not only was this a wonderful dessert, it brings back lovely memories of the Grenadines. After a week of sailing we relaxed at one of the most beautiful houses on St Lucia. Check out these amazing pictures by M. Then be sure to check out the website for the house if you feel like taking an extravagant vacation (pictures on the website do not do it justice). The house comes with the chef and two other house staff (one of which created this recipe). She also makes amazing curry chicken and mahi mahi. I'd like to be there right now. 


Walnut Ice Cream with Tomato Caramel Sauce

This recipe was inspired by my desire to make our plethora of tomatoes into a dessert. It worked, it just was not as literal as eating a tomato for dessert. Hidden in a caramel sauce the tomato gave a new depth of flavor to this amazingly creamy ice cream. If you have the supplies I recommend trying it. 


Mini Fruit Pizzas

I used to make this dessert a lot. I changed the recipe a little bit most recently and enjoyed it more than usual, especially served cold. A crowd pleaser when fresh berries are in season. 


Cornbread

One of M's favorites. It accompanies soups, jambalaya, gumbo, fish, and whatever else we can create to go with it. I think it would go wonderful with a new recipe I came across Pumpkin Turkey Chili. Give it a try, you won't even know the pumpkin is in there. We like it so much I sometimes think we choose recipes just so we have an excuse to make it. A good reason to keep buttermilk on hand at all times. 

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