Monday, November 29, 2010

Afghan Baklava [My Kitchen, My World-Afghanistan]

My globetrotting kitchen is off to Afghanistan!
When I first read that we were off to Afghanistan I was totally thrown. I know very little about Afghanistan and even less about it's cuisine. I started perusing sites with no luck of finding anything that caught my eye until I stumbled upon Afghan Cooking Unveiled and found a recipe for Afghan Baklava with Saffron Rosewater Syrup.

Baklava! On of my absolute favorites and absolutely on my to do list!

I've never made any other baklava, but from the little bit of research I did, it seems what makes Afghan baklava different is that it uses cardamon instead of cinnamon, pistachios instead of almonds, and infuses saffron and rosewater into the syrup.
 All baklava calls for butter. And, lots of it. Bring on the brush!
I brushed each layer with butter. I made five layers of buttered filo dough followed by a mixture of chopped almonds, cardamon, and sugar. Then, repeat, repeat, repeat.
As the baklava baked, I made the syrup. The lemon zest really added flavor to the syrup. I omitted the rosewater due to cost (expensive!) and time (never got around to making my own), but I imagine it would be an incredible addition.
After the baklava came out of the oven I poured the syrup over the baklava and sprinkled it with pistachios.

The baklava was delicious! My stepmom has already requested it be apart of my holiday goodie plate this year.
Afghan Baklava
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
2 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp. ground cardamom
¾ cup butter, melted
1 lb. filo dough (20 sheets)
1 cup water
The zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1  pinch saffron threads (optional)
1 tbsp. rosewater (optional)
½ cup finely chopped pistachios

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the walnuts, 1/3 cup of the sugar and the cardamom.

2. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides of a 16 x 12” jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) with melted butter. Lay one sheet of filo on the pan and brush lightly with butter.  Continue layering the filo and brushing with butter until you’ve laid down 5 sheets of filo. Sprinkle 1/3 of the walnut mixture over the filo.  Repeat the 5 sheets of filo/butter process followed by walnuts two more times, finishing up the baklava with the last 5 sheets of filo/butter. Coat the top of the baklava with butter. In total you will have 4 filo layers sandwiching 3 walnut layers.

3. Cut baklava diagonally across the filo to create diamond-shaped pieces.   Use a sharp knife and cut with care so the baklava layers stay together.

4. Set the baklava in the oven for about 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  While the baklava is baking, make the syrup.  

5. Combine the remaining 2 cups of sugar, the water, lemon zest, lemon juice, saffron and rosewater in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let it boil gently for about 10 minutes until the syrup reduces a bit and thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Keep warm.

6. When the baklava is done, remove from the oven.  Drizzle the syrup evenly over the top.  Sprinkle  with the chopped pistachios.  Allow it to cool a bit before serving.

Friday, November 26, 2010

{FFwD} Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux

The French Fridays with Dorie November recipe I couldn't wait to do was this one- Roast Chicken for Lazy People! That's for me.

The chicken was so easy to make. I simply seasoned it with salt and pepper, stuffed it with garlic, rosemary and thyme, and set it all in a saute pot I forgot I owned. I love finding great finds in the back of cabinets!

I roasted the chicken for 45 minutes, added shallots and carrots to the pot, and roasted it for an additional 45 minutes. The chicken was delicious! The vegetables were delicious! And, the bread at the bottom of the pan was too good to share.

{FFwD} Potato Gratin

I had not initially intended on making this dish. November is a crazy month and I only planned to tackle two of the French Fridays with Dorie recipes. But, after Phyl, Kayte and Anne Marie all gave it beyond rave reviews, I knew I had to do it.
The recipe was so simple. I wish I'd had was a slicer for the potatoes. I cut them by hand and I think I did a decent job, but in this house my husband routinely teased me for mangling the cheese block when I go at it with knife.
Potatoes, cream, some herbs, and Gruyere cheese. Does it get any better? Nope. My fellow bloggers were right. This recipe was worth the work! I have a feeling leftovers will be amazing as well.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My First Thanksgiving Turkey Carving

In some families the turkey carving duty is coveted and sacred. In my family, it's up for grabs each year. This year, the usual turkey carvers were all crying "not it" or claimed injury. (My dad: Thumb meets pocket knife = nasty gash. My husband: bike meets icy road = fractured wrist.)
This year, I stepped up to the plate. With a little coaching, I carved my first turkey!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

BBA: Light Wheat Bread

The eighteenth bread of the BBA Challenge is light wheat bread. The whole wheat flour only accounts for 33%of the total flour, so it's not most whole grain of wheat breads, but it's a great bread in the middle between white and all whole grain.

This recipe calls for powdered milk. I used to always have powdered milk on hand because I don't drink milk. I hate it. I always have. I used to take my milk with me to the bathroom during dinner and pour it down the sink. For some reason my parents let me believe I was pulling one over on them when I'd say, "I'll finish my milk in the bathroom." For years I'd always use powdered milk in lieu of milk in recipes. But, then I had kids. Now, I buy whole milk two gallons at a time. I just couldn't bring myself to buy powdered milk again (especially when I couldn't get a small box) so instead I used 1 1/2 Tbs of real milk and just adjusted the water a bit as I added it. 

I must say that with this bread, I finally felt like a breadmaker. I felt like I knew what I was doing! I knew it needed a bit more flour during mixing, I knew when the dough felt right, I felt confident in the shaping (okay, it's just a loaf, but it's the best one I've done!), and I knew it needed an extra two minutes just by looking at it.

The bread is delicious. It's soft and simple and yet dense and chewy. I will be making it again. In fact, I'm going to go get another piece and smear it with butter for my dessert tonight.

Friday, November 19, 2010

{FFwD} Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans

The November French Friday's with Dorie recipes have been chosen. This month, they're giving us all four recipes and letting us choose when to cook/bake them.

I was excited about these pumpkin gorgonzola flans since I've never made flan before and I made some leftover cooked pumpkin. I also did a half recipe.

The pumpkin, cream, and eggs was easy to whisk together, although my end product looks yellow like egg, whereas the picture in the cookbook looks orange like pumpkin. I'm not sure why that happened. I did use home cooked pumpkin instead of canned.
I let Charlotte butter the ramekins while I whipped up the ingredients. Didn't she do a great job! I'd say we added good 2 Tbs of butter to the recipe.

Overall, I thought they were okay. I always associate flan with dessert, not appetizer. I didn't realize it was going to be so much like quiche. It tasted good, but I was disappointed in my lack of pumpkin flavor. The gorgonzola and walnuts really made the dish!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

A delicious muffin for the season.

I altered the recipe I found by using half whole wheat flour instead of all all-purpose and I increased the amount of pumpkin originally called for.

The molasses in an inspired alternative to sugar and went well with the pumpkin flavorings.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from: Food Network
Printable Recipe 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 1/2  cup canned or fresh pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with spray.

2. In a bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

3. In a large bowl, whisk sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg. Add the additional egg and whisk. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk. Whisk until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Pour batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Kentucky Butter Rum Cake

    Every year I make this cake for my husband for his birthday. The recipe came from an old cookbook of his mother's. It's a delicious and hearty pound cake topped (hmm... well, topped and then flipped) with a butter rum sauce that gives the cake pockets of sugary moist rich goodness.

    I used to send the cake to work with my husband. A co-worker of his shares the same birthday and also loves the cake. One year I found out that they hide the cake from the rest of their co-workers and spent the day secretly eating it.
    In all the years I've made the cake I have never perfected the unmolding. I've tried so many different things and have changed pans twice. My sister recently made an apple cake in a bundt pan and unmolded it beautifully. I asked her secret. She said oil and flour. I tried oil and flour a couple years ago with disastrous results, but my sister is quite a cook and baker and I trust her, so next year I'm breaking out the flour again.
    Kentucky Butter Rum Cake
    Printable Recipe
    1 c butter, softened
    2 c sugar
    4 eggs
    3 c flour
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    2 tsp vanilla
    1 c buttermilk or sour milk

    Butter Sauce
    1 c sugar
    1/4 c hot water
    1/2 c butter
    1 Tbs rum extract

    1. Heat oven to 350. Generously grease a 10'' tube cake.

    2. In a medium bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

    3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk. Blend on slow and then beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrap bowl occasionally.

    4. Pour into pan and bake for 60-65 minutes until the top springs back when touched.

    5. Prepare sauce. In a saucepan heat sugar, butter, and water. Do not boil. Remove from heat and add rum extract.

    6. Prick the top and pour warm sauce over cake. Cool completely before removing from pan.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    MSC: Marshmallow Turkey Cupcakes

    November's Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club cupcake is perfect for this festive month!

    The chocolate cupcakes and swiss meringue buttercream frosting were just part of the needs for this cupcake decorating project. I do have one question for Martha- where on earth do you find toasted coconut marshmallows? After hitting two stores, I gave up and brought the regular ones.

    Toasting the coconut was so simply. And, made the house smell delicious!
    We then got down to serious decorating. I prepped the turkey heads with eyes and a mouth. As I frosted each cupcake, Charlotte would then place each head on the cupcake, put in the tail feathers, and sprinkle on the coconut. 

    We had so much fun and I will definitely be doing these again in future years!

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Daring Cooks: Chocolate Soufflé

    Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

    I was so excited when I saw this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge. They offered a couple of great savory souffle choices, but of course I had to try the chocolate recipe!

    I was shocked that making the souffle was much easier than I expected. I've made variations of creme patisserie a couple times now, so I'm more comfortable with the process. The part that takes the most skill is the folding of the egg whites and creme patisserie without losing the volume.

    My souffles rose beautifully and tasted like perfect chocolate clouds.

    Chocolate Souffle
    Printable Recipe

    For Ramekins
    2 Tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30g) unsalted butter, for greasing
    Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate

    For Creme Patisserie
    2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
    2 tsp (10 gm) (0.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK)
    ½ tsp (4½ gm) (0.15 oz) corn starch (aka cornflour)
    1 medium egg yolk
    1 medium whole egg
    4 Tbsp (60 ml) milk
    5 Tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream)
    3 oz (90gm) good-quality dark chocolate preferably 70+% cocoa solids, broken in pieces
    2 Tbsp (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
    Optional: 2 tsp orange zest or 2 tsp minced chipotle chile en adobo or 1 tsp chipotle chile powder. (The chile version is a Monkeyshines favorite!)   
    Optional: powdered sugar for dusting

    Egg Whites
    6 medium egg whites
    6½ Tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90g) superfine/caster sugar (if you don’t have it, regular sugar is OK)

    1. Heat oven to moderate 375 ˚F.
    2. Take four 1 cup soufflé dishes and brush them completely with softened butter. Tip a little cocoa powder or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tilting it as you do so it is evenly lined all round.
    3. For the crème patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch into a small bowl. Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium sized bowl, beat lightly, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.
    4. To make the ganache, pour the milk and cream into a pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.
    5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganache into the paste from step 3, and add the orange zest or chile if using. This is your crème patisserie.
    6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk. Sprinkle in the sugar as you are mixing. Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peaks to give volume to the soufflés.
    7. Stir about 2 tbsp of the beaten egg whites into the crème patisserie. Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture. Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.
    8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes. Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat. Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.
    9. Bake the soufflés for 15-17 minutes. The soufflés should have risen by about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Modern Baker: Cornmeal Buttermilk Waffles

    This is my second attempt at these waffles. The first time I left out a key ingredient- baking soda. Trust me, you really need it.

    Another Modern Baker winning recipe! I remember as a kid my stepmom used to make pancakes from a cornbread mix. I loved them and thought I'd probably love these too. I sure did! I mixed the simple batter together the night before and the next morning we had delicious waffles. 

    I will definitely make these again, especially seeing both Phyl and Kayte make Belgium waffles out of them! I need myself a Belgium waffle maker now!

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Cream Wafers

    My dear friend Jincy has a fantastic wine and cheese party each summer. She sets up stations of paired wines and cheeses throughout her backyard garden. Each year, I find my husband lurking around the dessert table throughout the night. (She also hand makes a whole assortment of desserts.)

    These cream wafers are his favorite. Jincy is so sweet and often sends him home with a little doggie bag of wafers she saved for him.

    I've earned myself big wife points. I got the recipe and I made it for him during this particularly crazy week.

    I was astonished at how utterly simple the recipe is. Five ingredients total between the cookie and frosting. Five.

    Make them! Perhaps you too will earn big points with those you love when you serve them these little cookies from heaven.

    Note: Often Jincy frosts the bottom and puts two together like a sandwich. I couldn't find my small cookie cutters so I made larger cookies and frosted the top this time.

    Cream Wafers
    From: Jincy
    Printable Recipe

    1 cup butter
    1/2 cup whipped cream
    2 cups flour

    Mix until blended roll out on floured surface to about 1/8 in thick cut into round or other small shapes. After you put everything on cookie sheet then you sprinkle sugar all over the top of dough then prick each with a fork and bake at 375 for 7-9 min.

    1/4 cup butter soften
    1 cup powered sugar
    1T cream
    1 tsp almond extract

    Mix well.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Modern Baker: Chocolate Babka Loaf

    This next recipe from the Modern Baker Challenge was a huge hit in this house. It's a simple bread with a delicious ring of chocolate and pecans on the inside.

    The dough mixed together easily and actually rose! Yay! I used instant yeast this time. It's possible my active yeast has simply lost it's pow, but I also realized something else. It's fall. It's cold. I started the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge and the Modern Baker Challenge in the spring. It's always been warm when I've been baking bread! Now I understand why people like to bake in the summer.

    For the filling I chopped and then processed the chocolate with sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. I rolled out the bread, spread the filling, jelly-rolled the bread, cut it in half, set in loaf pans, let rise, and baked.  
    The bread was simple and slightly sweet. The filling was rich. It was a perfect combination.
    I ate more than my share. I loved to slightly warm it in the microwave so the chocolate would ooze out of the bread.
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