Saturday, April 30, 2011

Modern Baker: Tomato & Cantal Tart

Here is my last savory tart for the Modern Baker group.

I saved this tart for last because I thought it would be a slam dunk favorite. Surprisingly, it wasn't and I know why. Look at that gorgeous pizza- I mean tart- above. Doesn't it look like the best margherita pizza ever! When I traveled in Italy, I loved margherita pizza. The Italians really know how to do that pizza right.

For this tart I used the rich pie dough crust again and the filling consists of cantal cheese and tomatoes and is topped with olive oil and basil. Well, it also has one ingredient that you would never find on pizza- dijon mustard. It just threw it all off for me. I will say that the tart did taste good. I imagine it would be a great hors d'oeuvres but I just couldn't get over the fact it wasn't pizza. Silly, I know.

Sweet tarts here I come!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

{FFwD} Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak

French Friday's with Dorie is taking on steak this week. This is my first ever steak too! Dorie specifies using Sarawak pepper and filet mignon. Sorry, Dorie. I used the bulk peppercorns and the much much cheaper sirloin.
Where is my mortar and pestle??? I searched and searched the kitchen and finally resorted to banging the peppercorns in a ziploc with a frying pan. It worked!
Wow, steak is pretty darn easy! I must admit that I was totally intimidated. Remember, until last year I didn't really even know how to cook chicken.
I cooked the steaks and then there was the big decision to make. Do I flame the brandy or just cook it down? I decided to go for it and flame it. My husband was at the ready with the fire extinguisher. There was a HUGE flame and then high flames off the pan for quite awhile. I didn't panic but it did take me by surprise how intense the initial flaming was. My husband was teasing me that I almost burned down the house. I'm not sure I need to relive flaming brandy anytime soon, but it was a fun experience to have had.

The resulting steak and sauce was delicious. We don't eat much beef at our house, but I do still like steak and for my first steaks I did a pretty good job. Perhaps slightly overdone only. The peppercorns were great! I was afraid it would be too overpowering with pepper, but it wasn't. And, the sauce was the perfect compliment. A huge hit for dinner for sure!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Maple Mousse and Edible Containers

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!
Okay, I will admit that when I saw the Daring Bakers challenge this month I was a bit underwhelmed. We had been tipped off that April's Daring Bakers challenge would involve an edible container, just like April's Daring Cooks challenge did. I had visions of learning to make some kind of chocolate cup- like tiramisu comes in sometimes. Then, I saw maple mousse (okay, that sounded fun) in nut bowls (underwhelmed) or bacon bowls (WTF!).

First, let's talk about the mousse. It uses real, let's capitalize that, REAL maple syrup. Ouch on the pocketbook, but it was important to do this ingredient right. The mousse was unexpectedly easy to make and oh so delicious. The maple flavor is light and sweet. This would be an incredible substitute for whip cream.
Yes, I could have been creative and figured out my own chocolate edible container but as I read the whole challenge I became more interested in these nut bowls. Think of all the fun things I could put in them- ice cream, peanut butter, piped marshmallow, fruit, or even yogurt. And, what kid wouldn't love to eat a snack out of a nut bowl that they can then eat! The nut bowl did not disappoint. I had to improvise as I was out of foil so it was thicker than expected, but what a fun experience!
Okay, now back to the bacon bowl. Again, WTF! A bacon bowl for mousse? That sounds insane, but Evelyne attested that it was good and the combination of sweet and salty was really good. I wasn't going to do it. I just couldn't go there. Then, I was standing in the grocery store and thought, "my husband would love me if I brought home bacon this week and what the heck- let's give it a try". You know what, Evelyne was right. It was surprisingly good. The bacon was a great compliment to the sweet maple mousse. I asked my husband which bowl her preferred. He smiled and said, "everything is better with bacon." So, there you have it. Bacon bowl- WTF to OMG.

Maple Mousse and Edible Containers
Printable Recipe

Maple Mousse:
• 1 cup pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup)
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
• 1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1. Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
3. Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
4. Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
5. Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
6. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
7. Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.

Bacon Cups:
• 24 thin slices good quality bacon
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
2. Take a muffin pan or 6 small ½ cup capacity heat-proof bowls, turn upside down and carefully form aluminum foil covers on the back of 6 muffin cups or the bowls.
3. Taking 2 strips of bacon at a time crisscross the strips over the backs of the muffin cups and cut to size a tad longer then the bottom part of the cup. Now use 1 to 2 more strips to cover the sides of the muffin cups in a weaving fashion. You want a full tight weave because bacon shrinks a lot. For smaller cups I used a shot glass with a square of bacon for the bottom and I wrapped 1 strip around the side.
4. Tuck the ends of the bacon strips inside otherwise they will curl while cooking. A good idea is to insert 4 toothpicks where the crisscrossed bacon meets in the weave.
5. Place muffin pan in a cookie tray to catch drippings. Bake in oven for about 25 to 40 minutes, or until the bacon is golden and crisp but not burned.
6. Cool completely, a good hour, before removing your cups delicately from the foil.

Nut Bowls:
• 1 1/2 cups crushed nuts of your choice such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
• 1 egg, beaten, at room temperature
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
1. Use a food processor or a zip-lock back with a rolling pin to crush your nuts if whole, use about 1 cup of whole nuts to get 3/4 cups crushed. You want it somewhat coarse.
2. In a bowl mix the nuts with the beaten egg and the sugar.
3. Take 6 small ½ cup capacity Pyrex cups or a similar container and line the inside with aluminum foil. Spread ¼ cup of the mixture in the bowl, all the way up to the sides making sure you have a thin and even clean layer all around.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. until the nuts are golden and fragrant (about 15 minutes). Let cool completely before unmolding.
5. Melt chocolate (either in the microwave or over a double boiler). Dip the rims of the cooled nut bowls in the chocolate. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened and is set.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Modern Baker: Gruyere, Scallion, & Walnut Tart with Rich Pie Dough Crust

I'm back again with another Modern Baker savory tart. Just one more after this one before sweet tarts and from the posts of my fellow Modern Bakers I can see extreme restraint will be necessary this spring.

I wasn't too sure about this tart the day I went to bake it but I was eager to try out the rich pie dough crust. The ingredients are quite simple: scallions, walnuts, gruyere, eggs, milk, cream, salt, pepper and a touch of nutmeg. I must say I quite liked this tart. I love gruyere cheese and the walnuts and scallions mix perfectly with it. Its simple tasting- in a really really good way. It seems a perfect comfort food tart.
This crust is my new favorite! I love that Nick has us make dough in a food processor. Yes, there is some washing involved, but so much less angst than any other pie dough making from my past. This rich pie dough crust will be my standby from now on. The rolling was still messy, but I know a good part of that is inexperience on my part with rolling dough. I'll get better. Look at that gorgeous crust!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Egg Layered Cake

It's Easter! And, Penelope's 1/2 Birthday!
The perfect cake for both occasions!
I saw this delicious cake on Picky Palate. I'm all for recipes that are semi-homemade. This cake uses a box cake mix but also incorporates sour cream and instant pudding. The cream cheese frosting was a cinch too.
Smiles and giggles!
18 months old going on 3.
 Easter Egg Layered Cake
Adapted From: Picky Palate
Printable Recipe

1 Box White Cake Mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
8 oz sour cream or plain yogurt
4 eggs
1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix
Food Coloring or Decorating Paste (red, yellow, blue green)

2- 8oz pkgs softened cream cheese
2 sticks softened butter
2 lbs powdered sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Mix the cake mix, oil, water, sour cream, eggs and pudding mix until well combined; about 2 minutes.  Divide batter evenly into 4 bowls.  Add a tiny amount of food coloring to each bowl to create a pastel color.  Once mixed, pour each colored batter into well greased 9 inch cake pans (4 total).  Bake for 15-17 minutes or until cakes are cooked through.  Cakes will be thin.

3. Once cooled completely, remove from pans and stack on top of each other. Take a long sharp knife and cut an egg shape.  Once cut, place each individual layer of cake onto wax paper.

4.  To prepare frosting- beat cream cheese and butter until well combined.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar until desired consistency.
5. Frost and stack each layer as you go. Decorate!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Eggs, Dyed Naturally

Why dye eggs naturally? No reason. I was just plain bored with the standard Easter egg colors. I wanted to try something new this year!
The artists hard at work on their Easter egg creations! My favorite was the blue! Gorgeous!!
Tumeric- Gold
Red cabbage- Blue
Beets- Pink
Yellow onion skins- Orange
Red onion skins- Red

Thursday, April 21, 2011

{FFwD} Mustard Bâtons

This week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe is mustard bâtons. These little hors d'oeuvres are utterly simple and quite delicious! I should have halved the recipe as it makes a ton, but instead I chose froze half and it's ready and waiting for any coming event!

The mustard is the star of this dish so I chose one that had a bit of a punch to it. I'm sure glad I did! This was my first time working with puff pasty sheets. I was impressed with the dough. I rolled it out thin, spread on the mustard, made the cuts and baked it. I was totally surprised by the puffed up, flaky strips I pulled out! I guess I shouldn't be. It's puff pastry- it puffs. But, it was like magic to me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Modern Baker: Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Tart with Olive-Oil Dough Crust

Now that's a title!

While the other Modern Bakers are off enjoying sweet tarts (you all are torturing me with those posts!) I'm enjoying a few more savory tarts.
This roasted pepper and goat cheese tart was a surprising success. I like roasted pepper and I like goat cheese, but for some reason I wasn't sold on this tart. I was afraid the goat cheese would be a bit too powerful or something. But, the egg, roasted pepper, goat cheese, and parsley all melded together beautifully.
This tart uses the olive oil crust. I did not like this dough, but I will admit a good amount of baker error here. I am still very new to rolling pie and tart dough. This actually being one reason I'm excited about all these tarts and pies. I wondered if I should have added a bit more liquid to the dough when I saw it in the food processor, but I didn't. It was hard to roll out and broke on me.
It's not a very pretty crust my any means, but it tasted just fine. In fact I think I liked the flavor a bit more than the no-roll dough I did last time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

BBA: Pane Siciliano

The twenty-third bread of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is pane sicilliano. Peter Reinhart declared this one of his absolute favorite breads and I have to agree!

This is a three day bread. Three days! I'd gotten a bit used to two day breads, but a three day bread was hard. Each day didn't require a huge amount of work, but I had to 1. remember to do each step each day and 2. plan ahead enough to want bread on day 3. I just don't live three days ahead.

The dough came together perfectly. In the past I was constantly adjusting the water and flour at the end. Now, I trust Reinhart. And myself.  I let the dough ball form, I switched to the dough hook, and I let the dough knead for awhile. After a few moments I added a small amount of flour and just let in knead. After 8 minutes it felt right.
I let it rise, divided it and shaped them into baguettes and then rolled them into an S. I love the fancy S shape.
After seeing Reinhart's photos I realized that I could have let mine brown longer and mine didn't have the holes like Reinhart's, but the flavor was wonderful. The longer browning would have given me crunchier crust, but that's simply a reason to do this bread again.... like I even need a reason!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Edible Containers

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

The April Daring Cooks challenge was savory edible containers. There were a number of great suggested recipes. I couldn't pick just one, so I picked three: a noodle bowl and two kinds of bread bowls- one for eggs and one for soup.

Edible Container 1: Noodle Bowl for Salad
This noodle bowl is created by using ramen noodles. I used to live off of ramen noodles in college. Ahh, the memories. The bowls are very cute but not practical at all with little kids. My youngest destroyed all but one of the bowls in seconds after getting up on a stool in the kitchen. Very cute though.

Edible Container 2: Eggs in Bread Bowl
I've never cooked eggs in the oven before. It's interesting, it came out very creamy. It was good. This will be a fun alternative for breakfast some days and I can see the kids loving the bread egg bowl. Baking an egg does take a lot more time though so plan accordingly!
Here was my big oops on my first egg. As I pulled it out of the oven one handed I dropped the ramekin and egg when everywhere! I added 'oven cleaning' to my to do list that day.

Edible Container 3: Edible Soup Bowl
A bread bowl for your soup! I had to try this.
After all my bread baking this dough was each enough to make and shape. I chose to make two bread bowls slightly larger and I used my jumbo muffin tin pan to achieve them.
The bowls were perfect for the bean soup I made. My only suggestion would be to put in the optional herbs. As I was eating the soup and bowl I kept thinking it would be been delicious if I'd added rosemary to the bread dough.
A huge hit here and a repeat someday for sure!
Edible Soup Bowl

1/2 cups + 3 Tbs water
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
2/3 c whole wheat flour
1 c bread flour
1tsp instant dry yeast
Dry herbs (optional)

1. In a bowl, combine flours, yeast and herbs (if using). Set aside. In another bowl, combine the water, salt, sugar, and olive oil. Add to the flour mixture and stir vigorously (or use paddle attachment on your mixer) until the dough is combined and you have a soft ball of dough. Knead for a few minutes or switch to the dough hook and mix for a few mintues. Let rise in an oiled bowl covered with a cloth until doubled. (About 1- 1 1/5 hours)

2. Punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Form a ball. Divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover with a cloth and let sit for 20 minutes.

3. Roll each dough into a 10 cm disk. Place each disk over an upside down buttered muffin pan. Press the dough against the plan to form the bowl. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled. (About 30-45 minutes)

4. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until lightly browned. About 20-25 minutes. Invert the bowls and cool.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Modern Baker: Corn Pudding Tart with No-Roll Flaky Dough Crust

My cooking hiatus occurred during the Modern Baker's stint in the savory tarts and pies section. The group has now moved on to sweet tarts and pies. I had planned to just move on with the group but then something happened, actually three things happened.

1. I joined a couple friends in a no sugar until Easter challenge so no sweets until the end of April.
2. I came across my tart pan looking very lonely in the cabinet. 
3. Kayte did a mass posting of all her savory tarts at the beginning of April and they looked fantastic! Seeing all those delicious savory tarts got me thinking..... and hungry.

So, I'll be taking the long road to the sweet tart section and meandering a bit longer with the savory tarts. Up first- Corn Pudding Tart.
This corn tart was insanely easy and so delicious. The basic ingredients are corn, scallions, chives, a jalepeno, eggs, and a lot of heavy cream. It was a delicious tart, but missing one thing- salt.

I must now admit that I have no skill in salting dishes when the directions are to salt to taste. My grandmother was an extreme over-salter. Picture a large salt shaker with massive holes. Picture that salt shaker turned upside down for 10-20 seconds on a dish. That was how my grandmother salted. My mother swung the other direction, I'm sure partly due to all the health problems my grandmother suffered at the hand of her salt shaker. My mother rarely salts anything. I was taught to either not use salt or to lightly salt my serving. It's rarely a huge issue, except when I make a dish like this and take a bite and think, "hmm, needs salt". These are the times I wish I knew how to salt a dish properly during baking.
There are three doughs associated with this chapter on savory tarts and pies. For the corn tart I chose to do the no-roll flaky dough. Okay, in all honesty, I'd planned to do a different dough but after I fell out of the attic the other day and one elbow (and ankle and neck) are a bit sore I decided the rolling pin wasn't a great idea. Another great reason to have a handy no-roll dough in your repertoire!

I pulsed the dough in the food processor.
And pressed it into the pan.
A simple and easy crust. I liked the crust and loved that it was so simple, but I'm not sure I'd rave about the crust. I'm eager to try the rolled out doughs on the next tarts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Swedish Meat Pie (Biff Paj)

I was traveling the world of recipes with the My Kitchen, My World group, but honestly, I've always been more of a solo traveler than a group traveler. So, I'm taking my passport and setting off on my own. First stop, Sweden.
The Junction City Scandinavian Festival is always a good time and like most people, I go for three important reasons: Abelskiver, Biff Paj, and Fri-Jos! Then after a swing by the freshly squeezed lemonade stand, a shaved ice, and a tube of old-fashioned kettle corn I'm ready to enjoy the craft booths. Let's not discuss the calories okay.

At the Scandinavian Festival there are two lines that get quite long. One is for the abelskiver. The line is well worth it, but you will be dedicating part of your day to being in line! The other line is for the Swedish meat pies.  These delicious little pies are made in a sour cream pastry that is flaky and buttery.
The filling is quite simple and quite versatile:ground beef (or turkey), grated potato, cheese, parsley, garlic, dill, allspice, and nutmeg. I believe the ones at the festival also have onions inside. If not, I think onions would be a great addition!
Now, on to the pastry. The pastry dough is simple: flour, salt, and butter. The directions said to mix the butter into the flour with a fork or pastry cutter until there are only pea sized lumps.
I broke out my pastry cutter and set to work.
After awhile I switched to the fork. Whew, this is hard work! Pea-sized lumps? This is no fun at all.
After 8 minutes and very few pea sized lumps I was getting super frustrated and then I thought- what would Nick do? Nick Malgieri that is. (Author of the Modern Baker cookbook the book my Modern Baker Challenge group is baking from.) He has a number of doughs in the book and I've never seen the words- "mix with a fork until you get pea sized lumps." No, Nick uses the food processor!
One dump and 4 pulses later- perfection! I am officially in love with my food processor.
Roll out. Spoon in.
And bake.
Absolutely delicious! A huge hit with the adults! The kids loved the pastry but weren't into the filling. Silly kids! More for us!

Swedish Meat Pies (Biff Pajs)
Adapted From: The Barest Hint of Sweetness
Printable Recipe

Yield: 6 meat pies

* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
* 1 tablespoon garlic powder
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
* 1 pinch ground nutmeg
* 2 large red potatoes, grated
* 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cup cold butter
* 1 cup sour cream

1. Melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Crumble in the ground beef (or turkey) and add parsley, allspice, dill, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and grated potatoes. Cook and stir until the meat is browned. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and 1/2 cup sour cream until melted. Set aside to cool.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix in the 1 1/4 cup cold butter with a fork or pastry cutter until only pea sized lumps remain OR pulse ingredients in a food processor to get pea sized lumps. Stir in 1/2 cup sour cream a little bit at a time until the dough holds together. Knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Divide into six equal portions, and pat into balls.

4. Roll out each ball of dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Place a heaping 1/2 cup of filling onto each one. Fold over into half circles, and seal by moistening the edges with warm water and pressing together. Crimp edges. Place on a baking sheet.

5. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown.
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