Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Daring Bakers Make Petite Fours!


The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I've always loved eating petite fours at weddings, parties, and showers that I go to. There is just something about bite sized pieces of yumminess, how one is never enough! They're bite sized, so you can eat more! Right? I have never thought about making my own petite fours, however. It just seemed so... complicated. But, hello, this is the Daring Baker's! We're all about making things that seems complicated. And you know what? This wasn't. 

I have never made brown butter before, but I have always wondered what it was. At first I didn't think I was doing it right, and then all the sudden it turned into this beautiful chocolate brown and nutty amazingness. It smelled so wonderful! I was surprised that it actually did smell nutty! The cake itself was super simple to make. I did cheat and use store bought caramel pecan ice cream. Sorry! We just bought a half a cow people! There is no room in my freezer! And I've been busy making things for this month's Daring Cook's Challenge (ooh, what was a hint?!). 
The assembly part of this challenge was definitely a challenge. The silly things would NOT stay together while I was putting the glaze on. They kept falling apart, the ice cream was melting, it was a freaking mess. But a tasty mess it was! 

Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)
2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.
3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.
4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz:
Brown Butter Pound Cake
19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (See “Note” section for cake flour substitution)
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.
2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.
3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.
5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Chocolate Glaze (For the Ice Cream Petit Fours)
9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.
Assembly Instructions 
1. Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.
2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.
3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.
4. Make the chocolate glaze (see above.)
5. While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm).
6. Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it.
7. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.

Recipe Source: The brown butter pound cake recipe is adapted from the October 2009 edition of Gourmet. The vanilla ice cream is from ice cream genius David Lebovitz, adapted from The Perfect Scoop. The chocolate glaze for the petit fours is a larger adapted version of this ganache from Godiva Chocolate and the meringue for the Baked Alaska is a larger version of this meringue from Gourmet, May 1995.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Orange Ginger Chicken


This is another meal I prepared before I gave birth, something that could easily be prepared but still taste good and be healthy. This was great, and we will definitely be making this again! It had great orange flavor, and even a bit of a spicy kick!

I would right more, but I am currently typing with one hand (and not my dominant one, either) as the other one is currently holding this:

You will just have to trust me that it is good.

Orange Ginger Chicken Freezer Recipe

1 1/2 lbs chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, legs, etc)
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 tbsp honey mustard sauce
3/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

In a small bowl, combine marmalade, honey mustard, ginger and red pepper flakes, stirring well. Put chicken in a ziploc bag or freezer container and pour sauce over top. Refrigerate for about 1 hr, turning every 15-20 minutes, then place container or bag in freezer.

To cook:
Thaw chicken in refrigerator over night. Remove chicken from container or ziploc (do not baste with sauce) and barbeque on the grill, or cook in the oven at 350F for 35-45 minutes (time will vary depending on chicken pieces you chose) until juices run clear and thermometer registers 165F.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cherry Thyme Cornmeal Upside-down Cake!


I've been doing a bit of soul searching lately. Upon my return to work I have realized how much I really am ready for a change. Now don't get me wrong, I love where I work, the atmosphere, and most of the people. It's my job that has me down. A monkey could do it. And the monkey would be bored, too. There is just no challenge to it, no need for any brain cells at all. The prospect of new training has been dangled over my head, but I feel like the horse with a carrot dangling juuust out of reach, being tricked into pulling the cart. Top that all off with the fact that what I really want to be doing is staying at home with my sweet little cupcake, playing, learning, and doing all kinds of amazing mother-daughter bonding. That option, however, is completely off limits to me. At least for the next two years.

In light of all of this, I needed something delicious and warm to mull thoughts and options with. I saw this at Smitten Kitchen a while back, and had a bowl of cherries on hand. Unfortunately, the cherries needed de-pitting, during which I ate most of the cherries. Luckily, I had a couple bags of frozen cherries in my freezer. Using frozen cherries worked just as well, but the end product was gooier and not quite as pretty. It sure tasted good, though! I also threw in a handful of fresh thyme I had on hand. The family stopped cutting slices and just dug in with forks. So much for leftovers! :)

Cherry Thyme Cornmeal Upside Down Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2008

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 cups whole pitted fresh Bing cherries or other dark sweet cherries (about 21 ounces whole unpitted cherries)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground medium grind)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Combine 1/4 cup butter with brown sugar and vinegar in 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet with 2-inch-high sides. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high; add cherries and bring to boil. Remove from heat.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter in large bowl. Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Using rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten slightly. Fold in remaining whites in 3 additions (batter will be thick). Spoon batter over cherries in skillet, then spread evenly with offset spatula to cover cherries.

Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool in skillet on rack 5 minutes. Run spatula around edges of cake to loosen. Place large serving platter upside down atop skillet. Using pot holders or oven mitts, firmly hold platter and skillet together and invert. Leave skillet atop cake 5 minutes. Remove skillet. If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have become dislodged. Let cake cool at least 45 minutes. Cut cake into wedges and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Daring Cooks Make Russian Style Pierogi


The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

This month's Daring Cook's challenge was great! There are so many different options that you could use as fillings, both savory and sweet. I decided to stick with the traditional filling that Anula provided from her family. It was delicious! My husband, who apparently has to rename everything I make, decided they should be called loaded potato poppers. After boiling them, we pan fried them in the leftover bacon grease! Delicious! And sooo healthy! :) 
The given recipe called for 3 large potatoes, so I used 3 large potatoes. However, I think the large potatoes at my local grocer must be on some massive steroids, because I ended up with WAY more filling than dough. And I doubt it was because of those extra two strips of bacon I added, either. I could have easily made a triple batch of dough for all this filling! I used a 2" biscuit cutter and could only manage to get about a teaspoon of filling inside each little round. I think one of my mammoth sized potatoes would have been just fine. Maybe one and a half. Definitely not three, though! :)
An optional challenge this month was to use ingredients that represent our location. Being in Kansas City, fit was obvious that my ingredient of choice would be BBQ! However, I had some problems deciding how to use BBQ in the pierogi, and every idea I came up with I didn't like. So in the end I decided to make the recipe as stated in the challenge, and serve it with a side of BBQ. We went to Gates BBQ to get some Briscuit, but wouldn't you know it, they were out. And out of almost everything. How can a BBQ restaurant be out of BBQ? Anyway, we did get some slow roasted BBQ Beef, and that actually went really well with the potato poppers! 
Russian style pierogi (makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings)
(Traditional Polish recipe, although each family will have their own version, this is Anula's family recipe)
2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained    
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy (you can add more bacon if you like or omit that part completely if you’re vegetarian)
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted    
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt    
pinch of pepper to taste    
1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.
2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.
3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi - this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.
4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.
5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried.  Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer. I fried mine and then we dipped them in sour cream. YUM!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Grilled Peaches


In an attempt to loose some baby weight, I decided to have some healthy snacks. Enter a cast iron grill pan and a peach! Also enter butter, cinnamon, allspice, and whipped cream. Hmm... somehow my healthy snack turned out not quite so healthy. But oh man did it taste GOOD!

Grilled Peaches
1 Peach, sliced and de-pitted
1 tablespoon butter, melted
dash of cinnamon
dash of allspice
1/4 dash of nutmeg
whipped cream

Get the grill hot.
Place peach slices on the grill pan and heat through, turning occasionally so that it gets nice grill marks on it.
In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter and spices. Spoon over the peach slices as they grill.
Top with whipped cream!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette


I've been zucchini happy lately, which is great because they are so delicious, but also bad because I didn't grow any this year so I am having to actually buy them! A shame, I know!! After finding this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, I just knew I had to make this! My family came over for dinner when I served this. To give you a hint about my family, here is the conversation that followed:

My Dad: "So...what is this?"
Me: "It's a zucchini and ricotta galette"
Mom: "A what?"
Me: "A galette"
Dad: "What is that?"
Me: "It's this. Eat it"
Brother: "It looks like a zucchini pizza."
Me: "It's not a pizza, its a galette."
Brother: "Are you sure? It looks like a zucchini pizza"
Me: "Well, I made it, I am pretty sure I know what it is."
Brother: "No, I'm pretty sure it's a zucchini pizza"
Me: "galette"
Dad: "Yeah, it looks like a pizza to me!"
Me: "Ok, fine, it's a zucchini pizza. Are you going to eat it now?"
Brother and Dad together: "Mmm! This zucchini pizza is great, can I have some more?"

Then they asked me later if I would make the zucchini pizza again someday because they really liked it. Boys. :) And yes, I will be making this again, because it was definitely delicious! The crust is easy and flaky, and the ricotta mixture and the roasted zucchini are fantastic!!!

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make filling: Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes; gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.
Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Feta Cheese


I had some leftover roasted red peppers and feta cheese in my fridge, and needed to come up with some way of using them. After a google search I came up with loads of recipes, but didn't have all the ingredients for any of them. So I pulled some random things out of my fridge and cabinet and viola! 
This turned out really well, and I used theses leftovers on top of some pasta for my lunch today!

Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Feta Cheese

3 Chicken Breasts
1 small white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 ounces jarred roasted red peppers
1/4 cup white wine (I used dry vermouth)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Saute' the chicken breasts in olive oil until cooked through.
In a separate pan, saute' the onions and garlic until the onion is soft and fragrant.
Add the red peppers and white wine and cook until the peppers are heated through.
In a food processor, blend the red pepper/onion mixture until smooth.
Add the sour cream and 1/4 cup of the feta cheese and blend until smooth again.
Top the chicken with the sauce, and sprinkle some more feta cheese on top.


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