Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rustic Peach-Blueberry Tart

Summer has arrived, and with it comes a beautiful bounty of produce. I have been waiting ever so patiently (because really, what choice did I have?!) for peach season to begin. As strawberry season was on its way out, I lamented that loss, but kept consoling myself with the fact that peaches were just around the corner. So I do not exaggerate when I say that there was much rejoicing when Branstool Orchards announce that they would be bringing peaches to the farm market this week. There may have even been clapping and high-fiving with the kids. An overly excited response? Not if you've not had the intense pleasure of biting into a Branstool peach. {swoon}

I knew that while most of those peaches were going straight from knife to belly, a couple of them would make their way into this beautifully rustic tart I saw in "The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook" a couple days before. As luck would have it, some beautiful blueberries were also at the market this week, so it was sealed. As it was just the four of us, I actually halved the recipe (entire recipe given below), but added in an extra peach as the ones I used were a tad on the small-medium side. I didn't realize it as the picture was taken, but I'd actually cut right where the fold was, making the crust appear much thicker than it actually was throughout the rest of the tart. Sorry 'bout that. In most pieces, the fruit extended all the way to the edge of the crust. The sugar-crusted, flaky, cornmeal-enhanced crust.

I'll be honest: I fully expected the girls to pick out the fruit and juices and leave the crust.

But they didn't.

There was actually an "oh, this is so good" uttered while munching. And my oldest told me "While I don't like pie, I really like this." A win on so many levels.

Rustic Peach-Blueberry Tart
Serves: 6

  • 2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 2 c. fresh blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • The tiniest bit of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 recipe Cornmeal Crust, unbaked (recipe follows)
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
  • 2 tsp. vanilla sugar, or coarse sugar for crust
Put the peaches and blueberries in a medium bowl, add the granulated sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg, and toss to coat the fruit. Let the mixture macerate for 1 hour.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (or alternatively, roll out the dough directly on the parchment/silicon baking mat you will later transfer to the baking sheet. This is my preferred method as it saves me from transferring the dough after it's been formed. I was also light-handed with the flour, which made this work. If you are heavier-handed with flour, transfer after rolling.)

On a lightly floured work surface (or parchment/baking mat, if using), roll the dough into a 12"-in circle. Place the dough (and parchment) on the baking sheet.

Using a slotted spoon (reserve the fruit juices in the bowl), spoon the fruit into the center of the dough, leaving a 2" border all around. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, overlapping the dough as necessary, and press gently to seal the edges. Pour the reserved juices over the fruit.

Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve the tart warm, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Cornmeal Crust
Makes one 14" crust
  • 1 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/4 c. ice water, plus more if necessary
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Add 1/4 c. ice water, stirring lightly with a fork until the flour is moistened, then gently knead the dough 4 to 6 times in the bowl until it comes together. You may have to add up to an additional 2 Tablespoons of water if the dough seems dry.

Shape the dough into a ball and flatten it into a thick disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. You can also freeze this dough for up to 1 month. Before using, defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then let the dough cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12" circle. Bake according to instructions above.

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Strawberries

It's kind of hard for me to believe that it's not even June yet and strawberry season is about over here in the Midwest. When does that ever happen? I knew we had to get to the fields to pick some berries before the season was officially over. We chose one of the hottest days we've had this year (fail), went on one of the busier days (fail), got lost and relied on our GPS rather than our common sense (fail), and forgot water bottles (ultra-fail). Couple that with being told that it was already going to be "a tough pick", we came into the field defeated.

Not to be deterred, we listened to our children whine for over an hour while my husband and I scoured the thistle for berries. Our haul? 11 pounds of sweet, sweet berries. And their taste made all the blood, sweat, and bleeding ears worth it. I follow a number of food blogs, and one universal theme kept recurring: I had to try roasting fresh picked strawberries.

There appear to be two different methods when roasting berries: higher heat for a shorter time, or low heat for a longer time. I had the time, so I went with low and slow.

And the result? Swoon.

My girls and I loved them. My oldest actually did the happy food groan when she was eating them and said how much she loved the warm berries with the cold ice cream. My youngest polished off her sundae in record time and then both girls headed over to the stove to eat berries directly off the cookie sheet. I was even warned not to eat all the leftovers myself. Me?! Do they think I have no self-control around such deliciousness? They know me too well. :)

Roasted Strawberries
  • 2 1/2 lbs small fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup demerara sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 225°F. Wash, drain and hull strawberries. Divide berries in a single layer on one or two baking sheets  (I lined mine with parchment paper for easier clean-up). Place in the oven and slow-roast for 45 minutes. Strawberries will not release much juice during this part.

Remove from oven and sprinkle sugar evenly over the berries. Season lightly with salt and pepper (optional), and stir gently. Return pan(s) to oven and roast about 30 minutes more.

Remove pans from oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes. Strawberries will release more juice during this resting period. Transfer to a bowl or jar and use a spatula to scrape all of the sauce from the pan. Enjoy warm, or refrigerate until ready to use.

Will keep up to one week in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. In addition to all the yummy recipes linked above, I would recommend eating these berries on some pancakes or waffles, in a bowl of oatmeal, or just out of the jar.

Source: Simple Bites

Per Simple Bites: This is the basic recipe, but feel free to get creative by adding a splash of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of cardamom, or what ever complementary flavor you like. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kentucky Hot Brown

Saturday marks the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, and possibly the 50-ish year that people are going to be celebrating with a mint julep in one hand, a fork full of Kentucky Hot Brown in another, while the Derby pie waits anxiously for a hand to free up. I love food holidays.

The Hot Brown is a rich dish steeped in rich history. This open-faced sandwich was developed in the roaring 1920's by Fred Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, and was his answer to the flappers' fourth meal. Tired and hungry from a night of dancing, they would head into the restaurant for a bite to eat. Wanting to provide some variation from the standard egg and ham sandwiches they served, he developed this thing of beauty.

Mornay Sauce
Sliced Tomatoes
Sliced Hot Turkey Breast
Crusty, Toasted Bread

In that order.

It became one of his signature sandwiches and is a beloved part of Kentucky history to this day. It is also the perfect main dish to serve come Derby day.

Kentucky Hot Brown
Yield: 4 Sandwiches
  • 4 slices of toasted Texas Toast, or toasted French or Italian Bread
  • 1 lb. sliced turkey (on the slightly thicker side), warmed
  • 8 slices of roma tomatoes
  • 8 slices of thick-sliced bacon, cooked
  • Mornay sauce (can be made ahead)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Paprika and parsley (optional)
For each sandwich, place one slice of toast on an oven-safe dish. Divide the turkey evenly over the bread.
Take two slices of a Roma tomato and set them alongside the base of each turkey and toast.
Pour enough Mornay sauce to cover the dish. Add a handful of cheddar cheese to the tops.
Place entire dish under a broiler. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove it from the broiler.
Place two pieces of crispy bacon on top of the sandwich. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley (optional).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Croque Monsieur

I believe any meat/cheese sandwich is improved by serving it on grilled or toasted bread. The crunchiness of the bread often creates a lovely textural balance to the creamy cheese and tender meat. My husband is a man of simple tastes who could (and sometimes does) eat the same meal every day and be perfectly content. His sandwiches are just as delicious on untoasted bread, thankyouverymuch. For that reason, I always feel so loved when he offers to grill my sandwich. For him, it's a real act of love. :)

This is the toasted sandwich's slightly saucy cousin, pinky high in the air. It's your standard ham and cheese, but elevated to new heights by switching out the usual Swiss cheese for a creamy, nutty, and utterly delicious Gruyere cheese. The sandwich is then topped with a creamy Mornay sauce and broiled, just until bubbly. If you've never tried a Mornay sauce, it is incredibly similar to a bechamel sauce, except with the addition of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.

All put together and topped with some fresh chives, this sandwich is a thing of beauty.

Another beautiful thing?

Leftover Mornay sauce.

Which just happens to be the perfect sauce for Kentucky Hot Browns.

Oh yes. Just in time for the Kentucky Derby this Saturday. I'll be sharing that recipe with you tomorrow. In the meantime, here's how you make the sauce and assemble the sandwich:

Mornay Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp. finely chopped yellow onion
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 4 black peppercorns, cracked
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. whole milk (I used 1% with no problem)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c. (approx. 2 ounces) finely grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 c. (1 ounce) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, salt, and cracked peppercorns, and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft, but has not begun to color. 2. Remove from the heat, and add the flour in 2 batches, whisking to combine it with the onion and butter. Return the pan to the stove, and over low heat, cook a few minutes, until the flour is absorbed, stirring constantly so that it doesn't brown. Remove from the heat, and slowly whisk in the milk and add the bay leaf. 3. Return the pan to the stove, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the taste of raw flour is gone and the mixture is thick, smooth, and silky. If it's too thick and becoming difficult to stir, you'll need to whisk in a little more milk.

4. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the sauce. Wash and dry the pan, and pour the sauce back into it. Over low heat, add the two cheeses, a little at a time, stirring until they are completely melted. Or, 5. Add the cheese into the bowl, then transfer sauce into clean pan. 6. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon.

*I found leftover sauce will keep fine for 2-3 days if refrigerated. Reheat gently over low heat.

Croque Monsieur
Serves: 4
  • 8 slices white or whole-wheat sourdough bread
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced into 24-32, 1/16"-thick slices
  • 12 ounces smoked ham, such as Black Forest, sliced into 12-16, 1/16" thick slices
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
Adjust the oven rack to the upper position, and preheat the broiler. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Set half of the slices of bread buttered side down, and cover them with the Gruyere cheese slices, folding them back in toward the middle if they extend past the edges of the bread. Place 3-4 slices of ham in an even layer over the cheese, and put the top slice of bread over the ham, buttered side up.

Grill the sandwich, either in a pre-heated panini maker, or a heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron skillet, until golden on both sides.

Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and spoon the Mornay over them, leaving a 1-inch border of bread. Heat under the broiler for a minute or two, until the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle the chives over the sandwich and serve.

Source: Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

As Easter approached, I remembered I had these beautiful cupcake wrappers my mom had purchased last year and knew I couldn't let this year pass without using them. But which cupcake to choose? A delicate vanilla bean? A strawberry cupcake with strawberry buttercream? A rich chocolate with ganache? There were too many choices, so I asked my girls what kind of cupcake they wanted for Easter.

Here's how the conversation went down:
Me: "So girls, what kind of cupcakes should we make for Easter?"
My Big Girl (without missing a beat): "Red Velvet!!"
Me, knowing she had never had a red velvet cupcake before wondered how on earth this could've possibly entered her subconscious: "Red velvet? Really?"
MBG: "Yes, that's what I want. It has to be red velvet. Easter is about Jesus and His death on the cross, so we need a red cupcake. You know, for his blood."
Me (also never having had a red velvet cupcake and worried about how much it would dye the cupcake papers): "Are you sure you don't want a nice vanilla with chocolate icing?"

I couldn't sway them. They were committed. It was Jesus cupcakes or bust.

I did a bit of homework before settling on Annie's red velvet cupcakes, and I really couldn't have been more pleased with the results. I'm no red velvet expert, but we all thought they tasted delicious. The icing was the perfect topper, too: creamy, just sweet enough, and piped beautifully onto the cupcake. And, as it turned out, they were a most delicious way to remember that Easter is more than eggs and bunnies, even if they are decorated beautifully with them. :)

Red Velvet Cupcakes 
(aka Jesus Cupcakes)
Yield: About 24 cupcakes
For the cake:
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring, or ½ tsp. red gel-paste food color
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:*
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (use clear for a prettier colored icing)
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be runny.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.

Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired

*Per Annie: If you are big on frosting as I am, you may want to increase the quantities by 50%.  That is what I typically do for a batch of 24 cupcakes.  I usually end up with some left over, but I would rather have too much frosting than not enough!

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Apple a Day adapted from Saveur, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles, frosting adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Spring is more than in the air here in the Midwest. My daffodils and hyacinths have come and gone (over two weeks ago!), the grass has already been mowed, and I've had to weed my garden. Twice. What a strange, kind of wonderful start to the year. While my husband mourned the lack of snow this past winter, I was doing jubilant dances as I didn't have to shovel once.
My youngest and I made these delicious cookies on a cold winter's day, and they tasted so much like spring that I couldn't decide whether to share them sooner or later. I chose later. :)

The cookie is pretty much the perfect lemon cookie: As you bite into it, it's slightly crunchy, but that yields to a chewy interior. And Lauren (whose blog this recipe came from) remarked that just out of the oven, it tasted a lot like a lemon bar, and I couldn't agree more. My little taste tester gave her approval.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Yield: 2-3 dozen
  • ½ cups Butter, Softened
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
  • ½ cups Powdered Sugar 
Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non stick cooking spray and set aside. Alternatively, use parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.
Source: Lauren's Latest

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Homemade Hot Giardiniera

It takes a lot for me to get excited about a turkey and cheese sandwich. A lot. But, boy, does this giardiniera do the trick.

Having never tried giardiniera during my one visit to Chi-town, the concept for this as a sandwich topping was one I could kind of care less about. I don't eat hot dogs and rarely eat Italian beef sandwiches, so this wasn't really on my "to make" list. However, after watching a couple episodes of the Sandwich King, along with reading so many great reviews on Jeff Mauro's recipe, my mind was changed and I decided I had to at least try it.

I'm not going to lie, I had my doubts. Especially after pulling it out of the refrigerator after the initial 24 hour saltwater brine process. To say it smelled unappetizing may be an understatement. My husband wasn't convinced that it would be edible, but I was only three small steps away from completion, so I persevered.  Thank God I did. The end result was a slightly spicy, flavorful topping that I think my sandwich is so much better for being topped with. Even my husband, who has a thing against crunchy, uncooked vegetables seem to really enjoy this.

I followed the recipe as written using five Serrano peppers. It gave it a really nice, but not overpowering heat. I highly recommend making sure the saltwater brine is rinsed off the veggies thoroughly after their first night in the fridge. If you don't do a good job rinsing, I understand the giardiniera may turn out too salty. This is also one of those condiments that just gets better with age, which is a nice bonus because it makes a lot. And we all know I love a recipe that I can share with a friend or three.

Homemade Hot Giardiniera
Yield: 3 - 4 cups
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 1 cup small-diced carrots
  • 1 cup tiny cauliflower florets
  • 4 to 8 Serrano peppers, sliced (depending on heat level desired)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced small
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine 2 cups water and the salt in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Mix until the salt is dissolved. Add the carrots, cauliflower, Serranos, garlic, celery and bell pepper to the salt water and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2, drain and rinse the vegetables. In a clean bowl, mix together the oil with the oregano and pepper. Add the vegetables and mix to combine. Allow to marinate overnight. Giardiniera will only get better with time. After 2 days at the most in the bowl, you can place in air-tight mason jars and keep in the fridge for at least 2 to 3 weeks.

Source: Food Network's Sandwich King, Jeff Mauro

Monday, March 12, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Deliciousness

Looking for some tasty ideas for St. Patrick's Day? Here are some of the goods that may be coming from my kitchen again this year:

What's not to love? It's better than Bailey's (and I actually really enjoy Bailey's). This stuff is GOOD.
A tender, slightly fruity, almost no-knead bread. And you look like a rock star because you made your own bread. How easy it was can be our little secret.
Moist chocolatey cupcake. Rich chocolate ganache. Velvety smooth Irish cream buttercream. Chocolate shavings. Absolute heaven. Make these. They really are as good as they sound.

I've also got a couple new recipes on deck. My youngest loves all things mint chocolate chip (and really, who could blame her?!), so we have this mint chocolate chip cookie recipe on the agenda for Friday. I'm also pretty curious about this cheddar Guinness dip. I can have dip with a cupcake and an Irish cream chaser, right?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Raisins

I love trying new ways to make oatmeal. Maybe I'm secretly hoping that one of these versions my kids will flip for, but so far, no luck. I think it's a texture thing. And one thing steel cut oats are not lacking in is texture. They are both nutty, creamy, and chewy all at once. If you're new to steel cut oats, my description doesn't really do them justice.

This version was delicious: The apple, cinnamon, raisin combination is pretty classic, and the maple syrup really amp-ed up the sweetness. I halved the recipe and the leftovers were also tasty, with just a small amount of milk added while reheating.

If those sweetened packets of instant oatmeal are your thing, shake things up a bit with this healthier version. As with other versions I've shared, if apples and raisins don't sound that appealing, use any other variety of dried fruit and nuts. I see a cranberry pecan version in my future.

Steel Cut Oats with Apples and Raisins
Yield: 4-6 servings
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup (2% or 1%) milk
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
Combine the water and milk in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the oats and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir the toasted oats into the simmering liquid.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the mixture is very thick, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the salt, cinnamon, apple, raisins and maple syrup.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the oatmeal is creamy, about 10 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Source: The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

King Cake

My love affair with king cake started about seven years ago. My husband and I had picked one up from a Giant Eagle bakery and we loved it! Sadly, that was also the last year we ever saw one there.

Every year around Mardi Gras, I kept my eyes opened for just the right cake. We've tried several, but none were that good or very memorable. Last year, I went a step further in my search. I contacted several Giant Eagle stores around town hoping to surprise my husband with the real deal. I was so excited when I found one store had the materials to make us one! We were so excited to have our beloved original cake get in our bellies. Only it wasn't our beloved cake. It was completely sub par: dry, bland, mediocre.

This year, I decided enough was enough. It was time to take matters into my own hands. Armed with a delicious sounding (and looking!) recipe from Bunkycooks, I set to work. I had the dough made and rising in about 30 minutes. While the dough rose, I assembled my filling, cleaned up the kitchen, and perused Pinterest, not necessarily in that order.

The dough took about an hour and a half to rise, and was a dream to roll out,  needing very little flour. The entire assembly process for two cakes only took about 15 minutes. After a 45 minute rise, they were ready for the oven. 25 minutes later, they were out of the oven and ready to get fancy. Yea Mardi Gras!

The results were sublime. King cake is a bit of a misnomer as this is definitely a sweet bread, but what a delicious sweet bread it is. The filling which includes brown sugar, raisins, and pecans is so good; the hint of nutmeg in the pastry was just perfect; and the incredibly simple powdered sugar/water icing brought it all together beautifully. I daresay, it was even better than the original king cake we had spent so many years looking for. My good friend Jo declared that making this should become a new tradition and I couldn't agree more.

Even though Mardi Gras is over for this year, do yourself a favor and don't put off making this until next year. Through it together, top it with some pretty pastel icing and call it "Easter Cake." People will thank you. Or throw some green sprinkles on there and it's "Shamrock Cake." Halloween? You know what to do.  

King Cake
Yield: 2 cakes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110° F)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup melted butter 
  • 2 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
  • 2- 2½ Tbsp. water, divided
For pastry:
Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar and salt. Combine the flour and the nutmeg. Beat the flour/nutmeg mixture into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, if using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix at medium speed for 6-7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1.5-2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

For filling:
Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.

To assemble:
Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors or a very sharp knife, make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Push the doll or large pecan, if using, into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.
Note: My cakes took about 25 minutes to bake. I covered them with aluminum foil at about 15 minutes to avoid excessive browning, and rotated the pans top to bottom/left to right halfway through baking.

Note: When you are ready to ice the cakes, you will want to make the icing separate (1 c. powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp. water) for each cake, especially if you are going to sprinkle them with colored sugars. The icing hardens pretty quickly.

Source: Bunkycooks

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

These are not the kind of cinnamon rolls that you labor over, waiting in eager anticipation while they rise, only to find that the temperature of the milk was too hot and killed the yeast. Not even close.
These are easy. No dough making required. Perfect for those mornings that your kiddos ask for cute heart-shaped cinnamon rolls. Guess who was the super mom this morning? This girl. A little pre-made store-bought pizza dough, butter, cinnamon, and sugar, plus about the 10 minutes I spent in assembly was all that was needed. Did I mention they are an IKEA cinnamon roll knock-off? You heard me.
The cute heart shape was courtesy of Gourmet Mom on the Go. The perfect breakfast for someone you love.

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls
Yield: 6 Rolls
  • 1 package Trader Joe's plain pizza dough*
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375° degrees. Combine cinnamon and sugar. On a lightly-floured surface, roll pizza dough into a 9-inch square. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, leaving 1/2 inch border of plain dough around edges.

Roll dough to form a tight log, pinching to seal the seam shut. With the seam side down, cut evenly into six pieces with a serrated knife. Place in buttered pan, and brush tops with any remaining butter.

Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before icing.

*Note from The Kitchn: You can substitute 2 packages of Pillsbury's French Loaf dough for the Trader Joe's pizza dough. The Pillsbury dough also made tasty rolls, but did they not rise as much in the oven.

Icing **
1 tablespoon whipped cream cheese
1 tablespoon buttermilk
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Whisk cream cheese and buttermilk in large bowl until thick and smooth. Sift in confectioners' sugar; whisk until smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds.

Drizzle glaze over buns with a spoon. Or, if you want to get fancy, fill a plastic Ziploc bag with the glaze, cut off the tip of one corner, and drizzle in a professional-looking zigzag. Serve warm.

 **I have not tried this icing, as a quick mix of a little milk, powdered sugar, and a dash of vanilla is the quickest and easiest icing, and my preferred recipe when in a hurry. I included the original icing recipe because I wanted you to have the full Ikea-knock-off experience, if your looking for that sort of thing.

Source: The Kitchn. Heart shape design from Gourmet Mom on the Go.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Blood Orange Sugared Scones

I have a new love of scones (probably the result of an occupational hazard - thank you very much Sassafras Bakery), but had yet to make them myself at home. Enter Jessica's rave reviews of these blood orange scones and I knew I could put it off no longer.
The secret to making any sort of scone or biscuit is this: Use cold butter and don't overwork the dough. Pretty simple, right? And topping it with an orange-peel-infused sugar doesn't hurt, either.
Did I mention the glaze? Blood orange juice + powdered sugar = tasty and perfect for Valentine's Day. ♥
If you don't want to have a bunch of yummy, tender, baked scones sitting on your counter, you're in luck! These can easily be shaped and individually frozen after the dough has been made, allowing you to have something on hand if company drops by, or you find yourself needing a little something sweet. They don't seem to rise quite as high as the unfrozen variety, but I could taste any difference.
Don't have blood oranges? Regular oranges are a perfect substitute. The only thing missing is that lovely pink in the glaze.
Blood Orange Sugared Scones
Yield: 16 scones
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 blood oranges, zested
  • melted butter
Preheat oven to 425° degrees. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup sugar with about 1/2 of the grated orange zest. Rub together with your fingers until combined and fragrant.

In large bowl combine flour, orange sugar, salt, baking soda and powder. Using your fingers, a fork or a pastry blender, cut in butter until it forms coarse crumbs (the butter chunks should be a pea-sized, or a little smaller). Stir in buttermilk and vanilla, and add half of the remaining orange zest. Add the juice from 1/2 of one blood orange. Stir with a spoon until a dough forms, using your hands to bring it together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently. (I kneaded mine in the bowl.)

Divide in half and pat into 7 inch round circles. Alternately, use a large scoop and place on baking sheet. Combine the remaining sugar and orange zest. Brush each scone with melted butter and sprinkle with orange sugar. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges, or use a biscuit cutter to make rounds.
Bake for 12-14 minutes (wedges) or 9-11 minutes (rounds/scoops). Top with blood orange glaze while still warm.

Note: If you can’t find blood oranges, any type of orange can be used for these scones!

To freeze: Shape and cut dough. Top with melted butter and sprinkle on orange sugar. Place in freezer on baking sheet. When completely frozen, the scones can be placed together in a freezer bag or container. Bake on stoneware to prevent bottoms from overbrowning, and increase bake time to 18-21 minutes.

Blood Orange Glaze
  • Juice of one blood orange
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
Stir ingredients together until a smooth glaze forms. Depending on how juicy your orange is, you made need more juice or more sugar. If glaze seems too thin, add in sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. If it seems too thick, add more juice 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Pour over warm scones.

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from How Sweet Eats

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pizza Dip

The Superbowl is right around the corner, and nothing pairs with the Superbowl quite like a cold beer and a plethora of dips and dippers. While watching the Superbowl isn't really my thing, it combines snacking, friends, and funny commercials, all of which I can heartily get behind.

I can also get behind any dip that tastes like pizza. While the picture is not the best, the pizza dip was actually quite tasty. The bottom layer is a combination of cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese, and that is topped with pizza sauce, more cheese, and whatever toppings you enjoy on your pizza. We served ours with breadsticks the girls shaped from store-bought refrigerated pizza dough (not pictured) and some crusty bread. 

While quite yummy, next time I will use less of the cream cheese mixture on the bottom or add more sauce. I'm a sauce girl, and there just wasn't enough for me. Alternatively, use a 9"x13" pan instead of a pie plate. Complete recipe below!

Some other delicious snack ideas include (click on the name, not the picture):
Mini Sliders
Jalapeno Popper Dip
Baked Fontina
Pizza Bites
Simple Restaurant Salsa
Triple Chocolate Brownies

Buffalo Chicken Pasta
Caramel Corn
Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Mini Meatball Sliders

Mini Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Pizza Dip
Serves: 6-8

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • *1 cup pizza sauce
  • *1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded/grated
  • *1/4 (1/2) cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • Pizza toppings: pepperoni, cooked sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, etc.
  • Breadsticks and/or crusty bread for dipping
Mix the cream cheese, sour cream mayonnaise, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano and spread it across the bottom of a pie plate or a 9"x13" pan. *Spread the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle on the cheese, and pizza toppings of choice. (*If using a 9"x13" pan, double the ingredients indicated with the asterisk*.)

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until the cheese has melted, bubbling and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Source: Adapted slightly from Closet Cooking

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cream Biscuits

On Thanksgiving Day, I made some delicious garlic yeast rolls in my beloved King Arthur Flour 10x10 glazed stoneware pan. I left the rolls sitting in the pan on the front burner of my stove, and somehow inadvertently knocked the burner onto low at some point that morning. I heard a crack, but couldn't figure out where it was coming from. After the second crack, I realized the burner was on, and the heat from the burner had cracked my pan almost perfectly in half. The pan had been a Christmas gift from my sister two years ago, and it was my favorite piece of bakeware. I was pretty sad to have to throw it away.

I immediately set out to try and replace it, but the pan had been discontinued earlier this year. My sister and husband both searched to find me a replacement for Christmas. My husband tracked down the only pan our search engines could find available and bought it, surprising me Christmas morning. To our dismay, there was a slight flaw in the stoneware: A small bubble that had a tiny crack on the bottom of the pan.

We messaged the seller. "Do you have another? Please?!" Negative. We searched online again. Nothing. I called pottery retailers and we asked friends if they thought baking in it would cause it to crack. Online resources said it may, the pottery retailer said it probably would, but friends and Nate's gut said to try it anyway... but to try it with something that wouldn't make a complete mess in the oven if it decided to crack/shatter while baking. My answer: biscuits. And easy ones, at that. There was no way I was going to spend a lot of time making something that could end up in the trash. If they turned out tasty, bonus. My concern was the pan, truth be told.

To my surprise and delight, the pan didn't crack!! (At least not yet. I'm cautiously optimistic.) And even better, the biscuits that I spent all of 10 minutes throwing together were delicious! A slight crustiness on the outside, moist and tender inside. Everything that I love in a good biscuit. It was a double win!
These biscuits pair perfectly with jam - no butter needed. My personal favorite, cherry cognac, is made by Sweet Things Gourmet, a Columbus, OH-based business. The owners are as kind as their jam is delicious. Even if you are not in the Columbus area, their jams are available for purchase online, or you can just drool over all the amazing flavor combinations on their menu.
To recap: Pan = good. Biscuits = good. Jam = good. Life = good.
*Opinions about Sweet Thing Gourmet jams are my own. They know I love them, but were not aware that I would share my love for them on my blog.
Cream Biscuits
Yield: 8 biscuits
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (divided)
Place a layer of parchment paper across the bottom and up 2 sides of an 8"x8" (or 10"x10") pan. Preheat oven to 425°F degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients and stir with a whisk to combine. Stir in all but a 1/4 cup of cream.

Dump onto floured work surface and add remaining cream to the dry bits left in the bowl, scrape out and add to dough already on counter. Knead briefly (30 seconds) until dough comes together. Shape dough into a long rectangle and cut in half length-wise and then cut each piece into 4 pieces horizontally. Place biscuits in pan, then place in the oven on the middle rack for 16-20 minutes until golden.

Source: The Kitchn

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit

Nothing says it's a new year like sporting a delicious, healthy new breakfast, right?! Baked oatmeal practically screams "I'm wholesome! I'm delicious!" And really, this one is: Rolled oats, lightly sweetened with a little maple syrup, blueberries, and bananas are a pretty great way to start the day.
My cousin, Tiffany, instigated my new-found love of baked oatmeal when we stayed with her and her amazing family in Tennessee several weeks ago. She served us a delicious blueberry baked oatmeal for breakfast our first morning and I ended up eating at least a little each morning for the rest of our stay. It was so good! (Here's an assortment of pictures from our trip - my family is on the far bottom right, and Tiff's family is just to the left of us. Click to enlarge it.)

Once I got home, it became something I would find myself thinking about and needing to recreate, but finding a healthier version was a little more challenging. A lot of the recipes I found sounded delicious, but they were either laden in a half a stick (or more!) of butter, or swimming in added sugar. I was sure there had to be a version out there that was a balance of both delicious and nutritious.
This recipe fit the bill. It not only tastes good and is easy to prepare, but also comes in just under 300 calories per serving. I was concerned that the bananas would get yucky over the course of the week in the fridge, but they didn't. The leftovers reheated well in the microwave (I like mine with just a little bit of milk) and it made a quick, healthy breakfast for the following week.

The variations for this recipe seem to be endless, though I have yet to change things up. Annie shared a number of variations that she has tried (peaches with raspberries, nectarines with blackberries, apples and cranberries) and enjoyed, so if blueberries and bananas aren't your cup of tea, you can mix this recipe up to suit your own tastes or pantry.
Baked Oatmeal with Fruit
Serves: 4-5
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted, divided
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced ½-inch thick
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen), divided
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.  In a medium bowl, combine the rolled oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Stir with a fork to combine.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine the maple syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla. Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the baking dish.  Top with half of the berries.  Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer.  Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts and berries over the top.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Annie's Eats, via The Curvy Carrot, adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson