Sunday, May 30, 2010

Modern Baker: Butterscotch Scones, The Encore

I know exactly where to lay the blame for this encore- Abby of Stir it! Scrape it! She also forgot to use salted butter her first time making these scones and she decided to give them another try with salted butter and then added chocolate chips to the butterscotch chips this time! What a little temptress! She declared that her "take 2" scones were even better than the first batch.
So, yes I HAD to go buy salted butter, yes I HAD to add chocolate chips, and yes I HAD to make them again.

Yep, Abby was right. They can get even better.

Modern Baker: Real Welsh Scones

It's my last scone recipe of the quick breads in the Modern Baker Challenge. These real welsh scones were the easiest to make and a huge favorite. Well, that is, aside from the triple chocolate scones, which are really more like dessert scones.
The dough was easy to mix and since they only bake about 12 minutes, I had fresh hot scones in no time. I think the hardest thing about these scones is deciding if you should eat them with a dollop of butter or smeared with jam.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Croquembouche

I'm back again with another Daring Baker's recipe. I sat out April's challenge as I had NO interest in tradition British pudding using suet. Yuck! (I guess maybe I'm not that daring....)

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri. I was totally thrilled by May's challenge- A Piece Montee. From Wikipedia: A pièce montée (from French, literally "assembled piece" or "mounted piece". As Cat explained, "The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons."

Chocolate cream filled puff pastries dripped in chocolate! Yummy!!!
I learned a few things during this challenge. I was out of parchment paper so decided to substitute waxed paper instead. I learned it's not the same thing, although I think a continuation of my oven issues contributed to the waxed paper issue. This recipe called for a 450 oven. I preheated the oven to 475 (oven thermometer read 450). I put my pastry in. About 10 minutes later, just as I was about to lower the temp as the directions indicated, I smelled smoke. I opened the oven to a billow of smoke. My oven thermometer read 500. I opened up the house and luckily the smoke detector did not go off (especially given that I was enjoying a day where both of my kids took a nap at the same time!) The bottoms of my pastry were done, but the tops were still cooking. I lowered the temp and carefully watched. I was able to finish cooking them without burning the bottoms. They were quite brown though and when I went to remove them from the waxed paper, most stuck.
I filled the pastries, made the glaze, and began construction. For a first attempt, I think I did a good job with construction. My poor tower did lean a bit and my pastries got a bit squished. I learned a lot though and was proud I did it myself. When you live with an architect you tend to defer to them for construction projects. I was proud to show him my leaning tower when he got home and he was sweet enough not to critique my structural support approach.
I could have drizzled chocolate to finish it off, but I'd seen a few other completed recipes on the Daring Baker forum. A couple of people, obviously well versed in spun sugar, had used it to complete their decoration. I decided to give spun sugar a try.
I'm starting to enjoy boiling sugar. Maybe I should nurture my inner candy maker. This time I boiled until 310 degrees, the "hard crack" stage.
Once it hardens- it's hard.
Decorating was very messy, but great fun too. I had wispy sugar threads everywhere.
 I admired the tower for a bit and then dove it. The puff pastries were delicious! It was a fabulous challenge!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Modern Baker: Ginger Scones with Almond Topping

These scones are an example of why distracted baking can be a problem. These are ginger scones. Can you guess the one ingredient I forgot? Yep, the ground ginger. I did remember the crystallized ginger. Malgieri warns about dried out crystallized ginger at most supermarkets, but I was short on motivation to look for better ginger or make my own as Petra did for this challenge.

This is my third scone in the Modern Baker Challenge and my least favorite. I just don't like ginger and scones together. I never had ginger much until I started eating sushi a number of years ago. I love the ginger that comes alongside my sushi. When I bit into the scone I immediately started picturing sushi rolls. I wonder if I omitted the crystallized ginger and just used the ground ginger if it would be different. I found cutting up the crystallized ginger to be kind of a pain. It's like cutting up sour patch kids- it's awkward. Now, after completing the scones, I wish I would have really minced the ginger as I am not a fan of the larger chunks I come across.
The almond topping is quite nice! I like the added crunch and flavor it gives.

Monday, May 24, 2010

BBA: Bagels

The third bread of the BBA Challenge is bagels. That just seems ridiculous doesn't it. I'm a new bread baker and an even newer yeast bread baker and I'm making bagels!

Peter Reinhart begins the chapter with a commentary on the history of the bagel and a discussion on the debate of the denser, thick-crusted "water bagel" versus the lighter softer bagels. I was thrilled we were making the dense bagels, which I consider to be the true bagels.

Was I intimidated by the bagel? Oh yes. But, I persevered. First, I made the sponge.
Making and kneading the dough was definitely a challenge. Reinhart: "If the dough seems too dry or rips, add a few drops of water.... If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour..." What if my dough seems dry and rips but is also on the tacky side? I'm still no closer to getting that windowpane. However, this was the first time I felt more confident in my kneading and overall bread dough handling. As I added flour and then water I started to feel like I was getting a sense of the dough. This is all still very new to me though and oh how I wish Mr. Reinhart could pop by my kitchen for a tutorial. I know part of what he'd say- it just takes lots of practice with lots of dough to get the feel of it.
I finally got the dough to the consistency I was happy with and rolled my balls.
Bagel snakes anyone? As my bagels were resting and I was putting the baby down for a nap, the two year old decided to make "nasks" (snakes) with a couple of  my bagel balls.

The bagels rested until they were able to float in water and and then into the fridge they went for overnight. I made 10 large bagels and 4 small bagels (formerly snakes). I thought Charlotte might enjoy a Charlotte sized bagel.
And because I am in the running for best wife ever, I got up extra early the next morning- yes, even before the kids were up- to finish the bagels so we could have fresh from the oven bagels for breakfast.

I had no idea bagels were poached!
I topped them with sesame seeds, poppy seed, and kosher salt and served them with chive and onion cream cheese.
Delicious! Charlotte proclaimed with a big smile after her first bite, "I like bagels!"
I'm still astounded I made my own bagels. They were fantastic and I can't wait for breakfast tomorrow morning and the next day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Uses for Stale Bread

Got stale bread? I did. Here are a couple of things I did with my stale bread.

Bread Crumbs
Super easy to make!
Adapted from: PassionateHomemaking
Printable Recipe
Bread slices, broken into pieces
Spring of parsley
1 Tbs butter, melted
Italian sesoning
Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until crumbly. Store in freezer.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
I kept coming across bread pudding over and over again as a stale bread use. I'd never had bread pudding before. I must admit, it was quite tasty.
Adapted from: Real Simple
Printable Recipe
2 Tbs butter
5 oz (1/2 loaf) stale baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
3/4 c heavy cream
3/4 c whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3 egg yolks
1/3 c sugar
1 Tbs cocoa powder for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Coat six 5-ounce ramekins with the butter. Place bread in a large bowl.

2. In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, and vanilla. Whisk over med-high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Add chocolate chips, remove or reduce heat. Whisk until the chocolate chips are melted and incorporated.

3. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar together. Then, whisk in a small amount of the chocolate mixture. Then, whisk the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour over the bread and press firmly with a spatula to ensure all the bread is soaked.

4. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit 20 minutes at room temperature or soak in the fridge for a day.

5. Bring water to a boil in a kettle. Divide the chocolate bread and liquid evenly into the prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven. Fill the pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins.

6. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the pudding is set. Remove and cool in the water for 5-10 minutes. Dust with cocoa powder. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Modern Baker: Butterscotch Scones

Let me just begin my saying that I'm totally thrilled that Nick Malgieri, the author of The Modern Baker, commented on my blog post! (He's commented on all completed posts so far.) It's really neat he's taken the time to personally connect with our group and having that small connection makes baking from his book all the more fun.
This is another great scone from the Modern Baker Challenge. These scones were made in a desperate attempt not to go buy myself a cookie after a long day. I was trying to adhere to Michael Pollan's Food Rule #39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

A few other Modern Baker bloggers have already tackled this recipe. I remembered Andrea's tip to use butterscotch chips. I must say those were a fantastic addition. However, I forgot Phyl's reminder that this recipe calls for salted butter. Salted butter is used so infrequently in recipes I make that I don't even look for it in a recipe. Nick Malgieri says, "to my mind, good butterscotch always has a hint of saltiness". I agree. I love the combination of salt and butterscotch. I wish I'd remembered to use salted butter or add more salt. I'm interested to know how this alters the flavor. (Hmm, if you don't use salted butter, how much extra salt to you substitute?)

The dough, like all the quick breads, was fast and easy to make. Even though I only have a mini prep food processor I filled it to the max with the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter and then just incorporated the small amount of remaining flour with my Kitchenaid at the end before adding the eggs and cream.

Either my oven or my brain went a bit haywire and I ended up rescuing these scones from a smoky oven. The bottoms were charred but I easily slipped them off my new silpat (I LOVE my silpat) and cut off the bottoms. The rest of the scones were delightful. The flavor was very light so I am glad I added the butterscotch chips. I wasn't necessarily tasting the butterscotch flavor from the dough, but I still thought it was a delicious dough and I'll definitely make these scones again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zucchini Bread

Bread. Zucchini bread. Doesn't it sound so healthy! It really does. Zucchini is, after all, a vegetable. Let's all just pretend..... even though we all know it should really be called something more like.... zucchini cake.
A few years ago my dad and step-mom had quite the abundant zucchini plant. Every time we'd go over they were forcing zucchini on us. I think they even went so far as to leave it on the neighbors' doorsteps. This year, I know just want I'll do with any extra zucchini. My older sister makes mini loafs and then freezes them.
This is another recipe from two generations ago, so perhaps they've improved some proportions for recipes today. 1 cup of oil. 2 cups of sugar. Wow.

Zucchini Bread
From: Grandma Blackburn

3 eggs, beaten
1 c oil
2 c sugar
2 c grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla
3 c flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c nuts

1. Beat eggs. Add oil, sugar, grated zucchini, and vanilla.

2. Sift flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to zucchini. Add nuts.

3. Bake in loaf pans at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Linguinie with Caramelized Onions

An utterly fantastic dish I received from my friend Katharine. I never knew I loved caramelized onions so much. The recipe calls for a lot of onions (5 to 6) and after cutting up 3 I stopped because my pan was full and I figured that was plenty for two adults and a toddler. The onions cook down quite a bit and I would have had leftovers had a cut up the last two onions. Charlotte liked it too, but was a bit preoccupied with the bread served at dinner. Toddlers. Sigh.
Linguine with Caramelized Onions
From: Katharine Gallagher
Printable Recipe

5 or 6 medium to large onions (about 2 lbs)
1/3 c plus 2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 lb long pasta
Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese

1. Slice the onions thinly. (Food processor slicing disk works well.) Place in a large dry skillet. Cover the pan and turn to medium-low. Check and stir every 5 minutes. The onions will first give off a lot of liquid and then try out.

2. After about 20-30 min, when the onions begin to stick to the pan and brown, add the 1/3 c olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat on medium.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt and boiling water and add pasta.

4. Continue to cook onions until they are uniformly brown and soft, almost pasty, about 10-20 minutes more.

5. Add the remaining 2 T of olive oil and little pasta water to the onions. Taste and season as needed.

6. Drain pasta and toss with onions and Parmesan. Serve with more Parmesan at the table.

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms

Even though I'm spending a lot of time nurturing my love of baking, I still want to learn to cook too. Raw chicken and I are more friendly these days, but we're still not the best of friends. My friend Katharine gave me a collection of her favorite recipes. I've shared a few already and here is another one.

I really liked the marinade for the chicken and the mushrooms were great too. Even though I love balsamic, I think next time I'll use less on the mushrooms. I love sauteed mushrooms and felt the balsamic competed a bit too much with them.

Balsamic Chicken with Mushrooms
From: Katharine Gallagher
Printable Recipe
2 Tbs oil
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dijon or spicy mustard
2-5 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into 4 oz pieces
2 c mushrooms, sliced or halved
1/3 c chicken broth or dry white wine
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 T sour cream (optional)

1. Heat oil in skillet.

2. Mix 2 Tbs vinegar, mustard, and garlic in bowl. Add chicken and coat. Transfer chicken and marinade to skillet. Saute until cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm.

3. Heat remaining oil. Saute mushrooms for 1 min. Add broth/wine, thyme, and vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are brown and soft.  Stir in sour cream if using.

4. Top chicken with mushrooms and serve.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BBQ Sauce

BBQ. It's that time of year to fire up the grill.

This is my grandma's BBQ recipe. She got it from the Naval Academy chef at the mess hall in Annapolis, Maryland. My grandparents lived in Annapolis and my grandpa was a Physics professor at the Naval Academy. It's likely she got this recipe in the 1940s.

Either the chef or my grandma reduced this recipe for a family portion as I imagine the original recipe serves 500 or more. The one snag with this recipe, as well as some other recipes from her, is that one of the ingredients is not a specific measurement. "One small bottle of ketchup." Hmm. I wonder how many ounces was in a small ketchup bottle at her local A & P? In our super sized world I'm willing to bet that ketchup comes in much larger portions than in my grandma's day.

I bought the smallest ketchup I could- 24oz. Assuming that my grandma's "small bottle" was probably around 10oz, I doubled all the other ingredients. This recipe made enough for dinner the next night (BBQ pork) and a portion to freeze for later.
 BBQ Sauce
From: Grandma Goodwin
Printable Recipe

1 small onion, chopped
2 TBS butter
2 TBS vinegar
2 TBS brown sugar
4 TBS lemon juice
1 c water
1/2 c chopped celery
3 TBS Worcestershire
1 TBS molasses
1/2 TBS dry mustard
1 small bottle ketchup
Salt and pepper

Cook at least 3 hours.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

BBA: Artos Greek Celebration Bread

The aroma coming from my kitchen right now is heavenly. The Greek bread is just out of the oven and I'm now in the 1 hour wait for it to cool. This 1 hour wait reminds me of all the two week waits I suffered through with all it's anticipation and hopefulness. (For all those non-baby obsessed people: The two weeks wait is the time between ovulation and when your period should start, or more to the point hopefully not start. There are whole online communities of women right now helping each other through this time and I was once one of them. We'd talk about all kinds of random stuff and play all kinds of random games to keep our minds off the suspense. You know what! I should tell them all to start the BBA Challenge!)
My second BBA Challenge bread is Greek Celebration Bread. As a celebration bread this bread includes some fun spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, lemon zest, almond extract and honey.
I had a lemon in the house to zest, but my baking schedule got interrupted with an illness and the lemon found it's way into another dish in the meantime. I didn't realize I was without the lemon until I'd already started the mixing, so I substituted with lemon juice. The recipe also suggests minced orange zest instead of lemon. That might be an interesting twist to try one day. I, of course, avoided the celebration bread variations (Christopsomos and Lambropsomo) as they required adding raisins to the bread. No fruit in my bread!
See my new bread board my dad was so kind to sand down for me. Isn't it gorgeous! I was using an old cutting board to knead my dough on after a few horrible experiences of working with dough on the counter. Flour + water = paste. How do people clean up after using the counter?! I asked my dad if he could sand it down for me and as usual he returned with a product almost too pretty to use!
This is only my second bread, but I already felt a bit more at ease with the steps. I still didn't attain "windowpane" status, but I was closer..... I think.
10 minutes of kneading is a long time when you're first learning. I looked up after 3 minutes thinking I was done.
 Again, the magic of the rise. I didn't believe it would really double in size. But it did.
The flavor was fantastic. It really did taste like a festive bread. It will be great to do again at the holidays. The flavor keeps people guessing too. I had two people guess ginger as a spice. I think the combination of spices really makes this bread a winner. I know I'll be baking this one again.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

The May Daring Cooks Challenge: Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.
It's time for another Daring Kitchen recipe. I was excited about this Cinco de Mayo inspired challenge. This was in fact our dinner on May 5th!

Let me begin by saying, I had fun. Now that that is out of the way, I can confidently say that I will never ever make my own chili sauce again.
You begin by roasting Anaheim chilies. Well, in fact, you first begin my figuring out what Anaheim chilies are and where to find them. We have a Latino grocery store in town and I figured if no where else, they'd have them, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my everyday grocery store carried them. I chose to broil them. The broiling wasn't too bad, but what followed was a nightmare. First of all, I was supposed to use gloves. I didn't have any thin latex-like gloves, so I used my kitchen cleaning gloves. These proved to be too bulky so I just went for it without gloves. I was very careful to not touch the chilies anymore than I absolutely had to and when I finished I washed my hands for a good 15 minutes. Luckily, I only had a minor tingle in my fingers for part of the day which was either the chili oils or my imagination. I then had to peel them. Peeling the chilies to get to the chili meat while discarding the seeds and skin was next to impossible. I was successful on about 3 of the 30-40 chilies. I'm not really sure what I was doing wrong. Often it seemed all that was left in the chili was the seed bundle. So a lot of seeds ended up in my final green sauce.
Other than the chilies the green sauce was quite easy to make. It was my first time using tomatillos as well.
Stacking proved to be another complication for me. I carefully read the directions twice and although still slightly confused I decided to just jump in and go for it. It turns out I misunderstood step 2 and thus my final creation was not quite as the directions intended. It says to lay 4 tortillas in the pan. I stacked my 4 tortillas. Basically, instead of creating 4 small stacks of 3 tortillas, I created one large stack of 12 tortillas with the filling between every 4 tortillas. I knew something wasn't adding up as I was building, but the Mickey Clubhouse show was ending (toddler preoccupation almost at the end) and I had to get this thing in the oven for dinner. After dinner as I sat with Austin and re-read the directions I finally understood my mistake. Personally, I just think the directions were confusing.
Even though I didn't stack it exactly correctly, I did get everything in the pan so in essence the final product wasn't that off. The flavor was great, however, I think all those seeds I didn't get out of the chilies came back to haunt me. I enjoyed my meal with two glasses of water on the side and another glass of water after dinner.

It was too spicy for the two year old, but the husband loved it and was thrilled to get the rest of the pan to himself.
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