2011 - A Year in Review

I thought it would be fun to review the top posts from 2011, in pictures! So here goes!

January - 

February -  

 March - 
The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls

April - 

 May - 

 June -  

 July -  

 August -


 October - 

November - 

 December - 

It's been such a great year this year! There have been so many changes, not only in my personal life, but here on the Gingered Whisk as well! And next year promises to be even better - I already have a few awesome things cooking up for you!!

The Daring Bakers Make Sourdough!!

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

When I saw this month's challenge I laughed with glee! Yay, I love sourdough!! But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like this wasn't going to be a huge challenge for me - I already have my starter, and baking a loaf of bread isn't a big challenge for me anymore. I gave it a lot of thought and decided that I wanted to keep to the spirit of the sourdough challenge, but I needed to make it a challenge for me.

What I decided to do was to convert my 100% hydration starter into a 50% hydration starter (YAY MATH!) and to bake something that would actually be a challenge for me. A sourdough based biscotti!

I've been wanting to try my hand at biscotti for a while, now, and I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity. See, sourdough by nature is a very "wet" dough, which is what helps to give it that chewy and air filled texture. Biscotti, on the other hand, needs to be a dry dough - if its too wet, it won't dry out the way biscotti needs to.

I decided to use Susan's (from Wild Yeast) recipe for Ginger Pecan Sourdough Biscotti, but I changed the  flavors from ginger and pecan to cherry and almond instead. I really liked how this biscotti turned out! The flavors were great, and there was the perfect balance between chewy and crunchy! I will definitely be making these again, and I hope you make them, too!

How to Change a Liquid (100%) Starter to a Stiff (50%) Starter:
For a stiff starter you need a starter:flour: water ratio of 1:2:1. Meaning, you need to add twice as much flour as you have water and starter.
It became known on the Daring Bakers forums that everyone had named their starters. I can't believe I hadn't thought of this! Everything else in my house is named! Our GPS is Lola, my mixer is Julia, our flashlight is Igor. So, I would like to introduce you to Felix, my starter!
The best way to do this is to start with a very small amount of your liquid starter, 10 grams to be exact!
To this, add 20 grams of flour and 10 grams of water.
Loosely cover and allow to sit on your counter.
Every 12 hours, feed it the new ratio of 2 parts flour and 1 part water.
After a few days your new stiff starter will be ready to go!

(this math is brought to you by Susan from Wild Yeast, who is a sourdough GODDESS.

I really hope that my fellow Daring Bakers (and non-Daring Bakers) decide to keep their sourdough starter for at least a little while longer. There are so many things that you can do with a starter besides bread! Check out the Wild Yeast blog and Fresh Loaf for some inspiration, and while you are at it, check out what I have done, too!

Cherry Almond Sourdough Biscotti (adapted from Wild Yeast)

Yield: 16 biscotti

180 grams flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp salt
zest from 1 small lemon
135 grams of 50% hydration sourdough starter
2 large eggs
2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
150 grams brown sugar
57 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
125 grams almond slivers, chopped
125 grams dried cherries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest, starter, eggs, and vanilla.
Mix on low speed until the ingredients are well combined. The dough will be very stiff at this point.
Continue mixing on low speed until the gluten is beginning to develop, about 4 minutes.
Add the sugar, in 4 or 5 increments, mixing for about 2 minutes after each addition. The dough is going to become considerably looser as you add the sugar.
Add the butter and mix until it is completely incorporated.
Add the cherries and almonds, and mix on low speed until they are incorporated.
Form the dough into a "log" about 10-12 inches long and as compact in width as you can make it (the dough will spread).
Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the dough is firm but not hard.
Remove the bread to a cutting board and slice into 3/4" slices.
Turn the oven down to 250F.
Stand the biscotti up on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 40-50 minutes, or until the biscotti is dry.
Cool on a wire rack.

I am submitting this biscotti for Yeastspotting, an amazing resource and catalog of all things baked with yeast!

Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Hello my dear friends! I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas yesterday with family and friends, that you laughed until your heart was full and you ate until your stomach was.

Today is Secret Recipe Club day and I am so excited to reveal the blog that I was assigned - la bella vita. This is a beautiful blog by a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul, who shares her life through beautiful photos, recipes, and stories. If you can't tell, I truly enjoyed having this blog this month -  the pages of this blog are filled with so much inspiration, as well as tales from traveling and gardening. One of the things I took away from her blog is the reminder to stop "doing" things and instead "see" and "experience" them. I try to remember this every day in my life, to remember that every day itself is a gift that we have been given, and what is important at the end of the day is not the money we made, or the things crossed off our "to-do" list, but the memories. Roz also said that one of her goals in life is to live life more fully, passionately, soulfully, purposefully, and with a stronger connection to and in celebration of the riches of life (she said the Italian way of life, but I think it fits everyone). I think we all need to remember to do this in our lives! I hope that you all take a moment to go over and visit Roz and her beautiful blog!

When I found out that Roz was Italian, and had a plethora of amazing and authentic Italian recipes, I knew I really wanted to do something to pay homage to that. That's not what happened, though. You see, as I continued to read and delve deeper into Roz's blog, I found IT. THE sandwich of my childhood, the one that I constantly crave, and always remember so fondly - the breaded pork tenderloin.

I remember eating this sandwich as a child, most notably at the Iowa State Fair, where they served the most delicious breaded pork tenderloin I have ever had - piping hot, super thin, and bigger than your whole head. My Grandfather often teased me that a girl as tiny as I was would never be able to finish a sandwich that large. And he was right, of course, but that never stopped me from doing my best to try.  So when I saw this sandwich, I knew instantly that this was what I would be making this month!

As Roz states, there are three hard and fast cardinal rules about the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich:
1. It must HUGE, at least twice the size of the bun.
2. It must be a super thin and tenderized portion of tenderloin, no other cut of meat will do!
3. Pickles and Mustard. That's it.

I'm kind of sad to say that I broke ALL THREE of these rules! I know, I can't believe it either! I am pretty sure my "Iowa" card is going to be revoked now. But I have excuses, does that make it better? Rules #1 and #2 were broken because the only pork tenderloin I could find here were in small bags and pre-marinated in lemon pepper sauce. That would not do at all, so I decided to buy some thick pork chops and tenderized the CRAP out of them! I got them pretty thin, but they weren't nearly half as big as they should have been. Rule #3 was broken because I really detest mustard. But I did eat it with a pickle!!

This recipe is so easy to prepare, and SO DELCIOUS!!! I hope that you make this soon (as soon as you have recovered from all the Christmas cookies, fudge, and egg nog you have consumed this week). This recipe made 4 sandwiches, but again they were made with the wrong cuts of meat, so it stretched it a bit further.

THE Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich (la bella vita)

Wet Batter:
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
garlic powder to taste (just sprinkle some in there)
a few shakes of paprika

1 cup panko
1 cup super-fine crushed saltine crackers
1 cup flour

Prepare the wet batter and pour into a glass 9x13 baking dish (with a lid).
Tenderize the pork tenderloins (beat the crap out of them, you want them super thin!).
Place the pork chops into the batter, turning to coat, and place in the fridge to marinate for AT LEAST 8 hours (and up to overnight). Do not short change it here!

The next day, combine the breading in a cake pan or pasta dish.
Remove each tenderloin from the marinade and place in the dry breading, lightly pressing the coating into it.
Dip the tenderloin back into the marinade and turn to coat.
Coat the tenderloin with another coating of breading.

Place a large dutch oven or cast iron skillet on the stovetop and cover the bottom with canola oil.
Heat until 350 degrees (the oil needs to be HOT).
Fry for three minutes on each side, or until nice and golden brown.
Place on a bun with pickle and mustard and ENJOY!!

Here is what else the Secret Recipe Club made this month!

Fresh Cranberry and Candied Ginger Scones

The countdown has begun!! Christmas is, literally, just around the corner! Are your presents all wrapped (and bought?), cookies being made, stockings hung and meals being planned? This is such a busy time of the year, even if you don't have a ton of parties to go to, or even host. It seems like every time I check one thing off of my "To Do" list, I think of about three more things I need to add on there! 

I am glad to say that all our presents are wrapped and under the tree. I have started making cookies (recipes to come, probably in the New Year). I really want to make these awesome double chocolate candy cane cookies I found at Love from the Oven, but wouldn't you know it that every time I go to the store these last few days (which, admittedly, has been every day) I keep forgetting to buy candy canes! Dang it! I'm sure I will go to the store again, so hopefully I can remember to get everything next time!
I think the inside of a cranberry is the coolest and weirdest thing I have seen in a long time! They look like little hearts, don't they? An anatomical heart, not a Valentine.
What are your plans for Christmas this year? Are you having a big family get together or keeping it small? I am happy to say that my In-laws are coming into town in on Friday, and we are eagerly anticipating getting to spend some time with family! I think I might be going a little over board on the food (and baking more cookies than 4.5 people could possibly eat), but I am just so excited!!

These scones would be perfect for right now. The juicy cranberries and spicy candied ginger are not only wonderfully seasonal, but they pair perfectly together. They are also fairly easy to put together (I always seem to have trouble with scones for some reason), and I think you would be very happy if you could find time to make them this week! Either as a relaxing treat for you (sit down with a scone and a cup of tea for a little bit!) or even as a special breakfast for family this week.

Fresh Cranberry and Candied Ginger Scones (Joy the Baker)
Yield: 6 scones

2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1 heaping cup of coarsely chopped cranberries
1/2 cup coarsley chopped candied ginger
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
extra cream and sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat your oven to 375.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add the cold butter and quickly work the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is about the size of peas.
Toss in the cranberries and ginger and set the bowl in the fridge for a minute.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, egg, and vanilla extract.
Add the cream mixture all at once to the flour/butter mixture and stir as quickly as you can with as few strokes as you can to fully incorporate everything together.
Dump the shaggy mass out onto a floured surface  and work together, kneading lightly, into a 1 1/2 inch thick disk.
Cut the disk into 6 wedges.
Place the wedges 2 inches apart on the baking sheet, brush with a bit of cream and sprinkle some sugar on top.
Bake for 15 minutes until just cooked through.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving warm.

These are best the day they are baked, but can be stored for 3 days if well wrapped.

Tuscan Garlic Chicken

There has been an epic battle at my house these last few weeks. I know, it's terrible! With Santa watching and everything! But it can't be helped. Lines have been drawn. Blood has been shed (ok, not really, but there has been screaming and fighting involved). What am I talking about, you wonder?

This little guy right here, is causing massive problems. See, this was Ladybug's teddy. But Teddy has now been claimed. Teddy is now Peanut's property, and Ladybug is not happy about it. But there is nothing that can be done. Once claimed, there can't be any un-claiming.
Really, he is just too cute. Peanut takes his Teddy everywhere with him. And I mean everywhere. He takes a nap with teddy, he walks around the house with Teddy, he even lets Teddy have his fair share of dinner. It's just too cute.

To console dear Ladybug on the loss of her Teddy (no fear, we have plenty of replacements) we made this delicious Tuscan Garlic Chicken - we all really enjoyed it! It might just be me, but the making of this recipe completely destroyed my kitchen. It was probably just me. And the "help" of a 17 month old, two dogs chasing her through the kitchen trying to take the ball from her, a sleepy husband coming and standing in the middle of the kitchen in his robe, and the fact that I dropped like 6 saucy spoons all over the place. Bah. However, the taste was completely redeeming, the garlic, the red pepprers, the spinach, and the creamy cheesy sauce!

Tuscan Garlic Chicken (Slightly Modified from Fried Ice and Donut Holes)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 lb boneless skineless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
5-7 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
6 ounces fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups half and half
4 tsp cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 lb spaghetti, fettuccini or linguine

Preheat your oven to 350.
In a shallow dish or pie plate, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, basil, and prgano.
Coat each chicken breast in the flour mixture until both sides are wlel coated.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Cook each chicken breasts 2-3 minutes per side, until slightly golden brown but not cooed through.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is done.

While the chicken is cooking, set a large pot of water on to boil, and cook your pasta.

Wipe out the skillet you used to cook the chicken.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 1 TBSP of olive oil/
When the oil is hot, sautee the garlic and bell pepper for 2-3 minutes, stirring ocassionally.
Stir in 1 TBSP of flour into the pan and stir constantly for 1 minute.
Add the chicken broth to the pan and bring the mixture to a low simmer, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened - about 3-4 minutes.
In a small liquid measuring cup, whisk together the cornstarch and cream.
Add the cream, milk, and spinach to the skillet.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes.
Stir in the parmesan cheese.

When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and return it to the pot.
Toss the pasta with half of the cheese sauce.
Place some of the pasta on each plate, top with the chicken breasts and spoon some of the sauce over top.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I've never really had any interest in broccoli cheese soup before. To me it just looked like hunks of over-blanched broccoli swimming in artery clogging melted cheese. It just did not seem appetizing to me. But one night a few weeks back Joel came home from work with a request - his supervisor wanted a good, mostly healthy broccoli cheese soup.

At first, I didn't really think much of it. And, to be honest, I wasn't really going to search too hard for one, either. But then a thought came to me...If I can give her a good soup recipe, maybe one night Joel can come home in time for dinner, in time to actually see his daughter that day?

So I started searching, and searching, and getting really dishearted. Either the recipes were sooo not healthy, or they included things like Lite Velveeta Cheese Product (which, what even is that, anyway? Not going in my grocery cart, that's for sure!). I got disheartened. I kind of gave up. It couldn't be done.

And then one day I was "organizing" my massive pile of magazine clippings and scraps of paper with recipes written on them and LO AND BEHOLD! Guess what I found?! A Healthy Broccoli Cheese Soup! The recipe was made by Cook's Illustrated, with a whole story on how they perfected it - not too much cheese, lots of great flavor, high impact color!

And it's official, I've become a convert! This soup was great - it had a lovely flavor, with just the perfect amount of cheese! And the color! Oh man, green pops on your plate (its a secret ingredient! Guess? Give up? Spinach!!) Oh, and in case you are wondering - yes, I know the soup is thick. You don't have to make yours this thick, but remember, I'm teaching a toddler to eat soup. With a spoon. It's hard work, and messy, and we need as thick a soup as possible!

Broccoli Cheese Soup (Cook's Illustrated, March/April 2011)

2 TBSP unsalted butter
2 pounds broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1" pieces, stems trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
3-4 cups wanter
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 ounces baby spinach (2 cups loosely packed)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup) plus extra for serving
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
Sautee the broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 6 minutes.
Add 1 cup of water and the baking soda.
Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring only once!
Add the broth and 2 cups of water and increase the heat to medium-high.
When the mixture begins to simmer, stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
Transfer half of the soup to a blender, add the cheddar and parmesan cheese, and blend until smooth.
Transfer the soup in the blender to a bowl, and blend the remaining soup.
Transfer all of the soup back to the dutch-oven and simmer over medium-high heat.
Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding up to 1 cup of water, depending on what you like.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The Daring Cooks Make Char Sui and Char Sui Bao

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

Today's post is going to be short and sweet. To be honest, I don't think this cold is ever going to go away. I'm so tired of coughing. But that's not why this post is going to be short. No, you see, the reason I'm not going to ramble on today is this - Ladybug is in bed. My DVR is empty. Facebook has been sufficiently stalked. I'm taking this evening as mine, and I'm going to take a shower!! And then curl up in bed and read a book! 

I was excited when I saw this month's challenge. I had never heard of either Char Sui or Char Sui Bao. Both dishes were very easy to prepare, and turned out really great! After a day of marinading, you just bake the pork and get it all nice and chared (you can also BBQ it, if you happen to be cool enough to have a grill). I was really surprised and pleased with the taste -  slightly spicy and slightly sweet! We loved it! The next day we used the leftovers for the Char Sui Bao. At first I wasn't so sure about the dough, it didn't seem to be coming together as smoothly as I wanted it to. But after a nice rest in the laundry room (the only warm spot in the house) the little buns came together beautifully! Overall, I am really pleased with this meal (both of them, actually!) They were fairly easy to prepare and we all really enjoyed them!

Char Sui (Cantonese BBQ Pork)


1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon (3 gm) ground white pepper
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine
1 teaspoon (3 gm) five spice
(1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)
  1. Trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon and slice lengthways so you have two long pieces, then cut in half. Place in container that you will be marinating them in.
  2. Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.
  3. Cover pork well with ⅔ of the marinade mixture. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, I find it is best left to marinate overnight. Place the reserved ⅓ portion of the marinade covered in the fridge. You will use this as a baste when cooking the pork.
  4. Pre-heat oven to moderate 180˚C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  5. Cover a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Place on top of this a rack on which to cook the pork.
  6. Place pork in a hot frying pan or wok. Sear it quickly so it is well browned
  7. Remove from pan/wok and place pork on the rack and place in oven.
  8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, basting and turning until cooked through.

Baked Char Sui Bao (Cantonese BBQ Pork Bun) 
Servings: 12
Filling Ingredients
350 gm (12 oz) char sui (finely diced)
2 green onions/spring onions (finely sliced)
1 tablespoon hoisin
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup (60 ml) chicken stock
1 teaspoon (2 gm) cornflour
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
(1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)
Dough Ingredients
2½ teaspoons (8 gm/1 satchel) of dried yeast
¼ cup (55 gm/2 oz) sugar
½ cup warm water
2 cups (280 gm/10 oz) plain flour
1 egg (medium size - slightly beaten)
3 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon (3 gm) salt
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a dash of water
(1 cup=240 ml, 1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)
Filling Directions:
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan.
  2. Add diced char sui to the wok/pan and stir then add spring onions, cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add hoisin, dark soy sauce and sesame oil to the pork mixture, stir fry for one minute.
  4. Mix cornflour and stock together and then add to the pork mixture.
  5. Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1 or 2 minutes.
  6. Remove mixture from wok/pan and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.
Bun Directions:
  1. Place the sugar and warm water in a bowl, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Add yeast and leave it for 10 - 15 minutes until it becomes all frothy.
  2. Sift flour in to a large bowl.
  3. Add yeast mixture, egg, oil and salt and stir. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands.
  4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.
  5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1 - 2 hours depending on weather conditions.
  6. Once dough has doubled in size knock back and divide in to 12 portions and shape in to round balls.
  7. Use a rolling pin to roll out to approximately 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. Then pick the piece of dough up and gently pull the edges to enlarge to about 8cm (3 inches) in diameter.By doing this it keeps the dough slightly thicker in the centre. This means when your buns are cooking they won't split on the tops.
  8. Place a good sized tablespoon of filling on the dough circle. Then gather the edges and seal your bun.
  9. Place the bun seal side down on your baking tray. Continue with rest of dough.
  10. Once all buns are complete brush surface with egg wash.
  11. Place in a preheated oven of 200º C/392º F for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

The baked char sui bao freezes very well. All you need to do is take them out of the freezer and place in the over to warm. The steamed ones should freeze okay as well. To warm them place in microwave for about 30 seconds until warm and defrosted.

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