Saturday, January 12, 2013

Scandinavian Blondies and a Big Surprise

Hi everyone! Happy (much) belated New Year. Sorry I've been absent, but I've got some other things on my mind and have been busy. Busy for what you may ask? A wedding! That's right, Will and I are engaged. We are super excited. We've started planning for the wedding and I haven't made much time for trying new recipes. But the other day I decided I needed to get some baking into my schedule. So I grabbed my new King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion and started looking for some new recipes when I came across a recipe for blondies. Usually I would quickly turn the page because I'm more of a chocolate fanatic, but any recipe that calls for almonds catches my eye. So I added some cardamom and got to baking. These are amazingly delicious little treats. Super easy to make and they will quickly disappear. I don't even have a picture to share with you. Sorry about that. But please do make these blondies.

Scandinavian Blondies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup AP flour
Sliced almonds for the topping

1) Preheat the oven to 325 F and prepare an 8x8 square pan
2) Mix the eggs until thick then add the sugar and salt until combined. Add the extracts, melted butter, and cardamom. Then slowly fold in the flour until just combined
3) Pour into the prepared pan and top with sliced almonds and place in the oven
4) Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden
5) Let cool, then slice into 16 squares and enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Party 2012

Saturday was our 2nd annual Ugly Christmas Sweater and White Elephant Party. The house was filled with delicious desserts and horrendous fashion. It was a great time. I made classic gingerbread cookie, my pumpkin pie spice cookies, sugar cookies, stained glass cookies, and delicious glitter cookies. I was particularly excited to use my brand new 'A Christmas Story' leg lamp cookie cutter. This is my favorite holiday film and thought this was such a fun shape to make. Everyone had a great time. Little did I know that I'd be making chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream a couple days later for another holiday get together.

This will be my last post for a little while. We're going out of town all next week for my birthday and Christmas. I'll have updates on all the delicious food we eat while we're in St. Louis. I'm excited to try some new restaurants. In the meantime here are some pictures from the party. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

French Lemon Cream Tart

When I came across this recipe by Dorie Greenspan I couldn't wait to get into the kitchen and start baking. Ever since I first made lemon curd I was amazed at how a few simple ingredients could be transformed into something so delicious. But of course, Dorie Greenspan, with some help from Pierre Hermé, took lemon curd to the next level. Instead of adding the butter at the beginning you first cook the lemon curd then pour it into a food processor, or blender, and slowly add the butter. By emulsifying the butter it turns the lemon curd into an amazingly creamy taste and texture. Wow. Move over lemon curd, this new method is taking your place. Top a crispy baked tart shell with this creamy lemon curd along with some whipped cream and I am amazed. This is a recipe that you have to try.

Tart Shell or pâte sablée
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
9 tbsp frozen (or very cold) unsalted butter, cut into tbsp
1 egg yolk

1) Place the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times to mix them together, then add the butter, being careful not to over process the dough, you want it to be sandy and have visible pieces of butter. The pulse in the egg yolk slowly then pulse for 10 seconds until everything is combined.
2) The dough will be very loose and you will have to work it together with your hands to form the dough, just be careful not to over-knead the dough.
3) Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan and then press the dough into the pan, working up the sides to make sure the dough is evenly dispersed. If you have extra save some to fill in cracks if necessary after baking.
4) Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes
5) Butter the shiny side of some foil and press it against the tart shell then bake in a 375 F oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 8 minutes, you can bake it slightly longer, just be careful that it doesn't burn.
6) Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack until completely cool before filling with desired filling.

French Lemon Cream Tart
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 cup sugar
Zest from 3 lemons
4 eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks plus 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tbsp (room temperature)

1 fully baked tart shell

You will need a thermometer for this recipe

1) Add the lemon zest to the sugar and combine these ingredients to make a lemony sugar, rubbing the lemon oils into the sugar. Whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice and place them in a double boiler over simmering water.

2) Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it reaches 180 F, it will thicken while it cooks, just keep whisking, this can take about 10 minutes
3) Once the mixture reaches 180 F take it off of the heat and pour it through a sieve, to remove the zest, into a food processor or blender and let cool to 140 F, then turn the machine on and slowly add the butter, about 5 tbsp at a time, you may have to scrape the sides down a couple times
4) After the butter is incorporated let the machine run for about 3 minutes to fully emulsify the butter and lemon mixture together

5) Pour the lemon cream into a container and press with plastic wrap and let cool in the fridge for at least 4 hours (this will keep in the fridge for 4 days). Just make sure it is airtight

6) Once the lemon cream is cooled you can then pour it into the cooled tart and let it set up for a few minutes. I like to add freshly whipped cream on top. Then slice and serve and enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rictotta and Olive Tortellini

Ricotta. Or as I refer to it. The forgotten cheese. Why you may ask? Well, because whenever I get an impulse to buy ricotta it inevitably ends up getting pushed to the back of my fridge and forgotten, until I find it and ask myself, "what am I supposed to do with this?". Ricotta is fine, its not the greatest cheese that has even been crafted, but it does have some great uses. I've added ricotta to a delicious cake, I've even made gnocchi. It seems as if everytime I buy this cheese I am stuck wondering what to do with it. So when life gives you ricotta I say make tortellini, or ravioli. 

I made homemade pasta and mixed together the ricotta with some basil and Kalamata olives then got to work filling and shaping the tortellini. I usually make ravioli, but I wanted to try to make tortellini. It took a few duds to get the shaping correct. Trial and error. Don't worry you'll get the hang of it. Sure you may have a few odd shaped pieces, but that doesn't mean they are any less delicious. 

Homemade Pasta
Adapted from Trattoria Grappolo (aka one of my favorite restaurants)

5 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups AP flour

1) Beat together the eggs, salt, and olive oil and set aside
2) You can either do this by hand or use a food processor. I've done both. The food processor is a lot quicker, but sometimes I don't want to wash all those dishes. 
3) If using food processor add the flour and with the machine on add the egg mixture and pulse until combined and a dough has formed. 
4) If mixing by hand make a mound of flour and then make a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the center and slowly incorporate the dough into the egg mixture and knead until mixture is combined
5) Divide the dough into 3 balls and wrap with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. 
6) Set up your pasta machine and get the dough out and start rolling it out into the desired thickness and cut and shape into desired shape

Olive, Ricotta, and Basil Filling
Adapted from Cook with Jamie

Bunch of fresh basil, finely chopped, divided 
9 oz of ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp of nutmeg
1/4 cup of Kalamata olives
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced
14 oz of fresh tomatoes, or use canned (but use really good quality here)
Balsamic vinegar

1) Mix together the ricotta, nutmeg, olives, Parmesan, salt and pepper, and half of the basil in a bowl

2) Have pasta rolled out into 4-inch squares and the place a small amount of filling into the pasta and shape into tortellini. You will have to practice this a few times before you get it right. 

3) When the pasta are filled place them on a sheet pan with a liberal dusting of flour to prevent them from sticking. You can cook now, or place in the fridge until ready to cook. (These are best the same day)

4) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with lots of salt
5) While the water is coming to a boil begin making your sauce bu adding some olive oil and butter to a pan then add in the garlic and the remaining basil, then add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes

6) Add the tortellini to the water and cook for about 2-3 minutes then drain them, reserving some pasta water if needed for the sauce.
7) Add the tortellini to the sauce and let them cook in the sauce for a minute and toss with some more Parmesan if desired, and add pasta water if sauce is too thick

8) Add to a plate and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

AKA the first year I cooked the turkey. That's right. I accomplished what I had always envisioned to be an impossible task. I cooked a moist and flavorful 14 pound bird. Surely this must have been a fluke? I'm still not quite sure how I pulled this off. I spent the whole week before Thanksgiving worrying about the many ways that I could mess this up. Would it still be rock hard frozen Thanksgiving morning? Would I drop it? would my dog Maddie eat it? Would I burn? What if it was dry? Undercooked? These were my worries.

So what did I do? I spent the days before searching for recipes and advice. I called my mom numerous times a day to ask the many questions that came up. Particularly about her stuffing/dressing recipe. I gathered this information and the night before Thanksgiving I decided that instead of brining the turkey I would salt it. Kind of like brining, but a lot easier. All you have to do is cover the turkey with kosher salt. Lots of kosher salt. Then I left it in the fridge, uncovered, in the roasting pan to dry it out a bit. This helps the skin get crispy and browned.

The next morning I took the bird out about 2 hours before oven time and let it warm up a bit. Then I drove it over to my friends house where we would be having our Thanksgiving meal. I heated up the oven to 450 F and let it get nice and hot in the oven. I quartered an onion and an apple and stuffed them inside the cavity, but only after disgusting my friend as I pulled out the hidden neck. I grabbed some butter, put some under the skin of the turkey and melted the rest. I then covered the turkey in cheesecloth and poured the hot butter all over. I poured some chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan put the turkey in the oven and turned down the heat to 325 F.

We had other dishes to prep while the bird did its thing. So I left it alone for 45 minutes then basted it, I did this a few more times. Then the kitchen began to smell like lovely roasted turkey. Yum! So I took its temperature and it was ready to take a little rest. I pulled it out of the oven, covered it with foil and left it along while we finished the rest of the dishes: cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes. I had already baked 2 apple pies and made cranberry sauce the day before. This doesn't even begin to take into account all of the dishes our friends were bringing. Wow, there was going to be a lot of food.

People began to flow into the kitchen and once those sides were done I was presented with another daunting task. Carving the turkey. I had quickly looked up how to do so and followed some pretty basic directions. I could do with a little practice, but all in all I did a fairly good job with the carving. As I was carving I was astonished at how moist the turkey was! I couldn't believe it. All of that worrying for nothing.

We sat around for hours, eating and overstuffing ourselves with delicious food. It was a great Thanksgiving and I was so happy to get to celebrate it with all of my friends and all of that great food.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple Crumb Pie

Apples are an under-appreciated fruit in my opinion. Sure, you can buy them almost anywhere. And yes, sadly, the grocery stores only sell a few varieties. But for me they are one of the most versatile and delicious fruits. They are great to snack on anytime of the day and also make the most elegant desserts. Nothing beats a warm slice of apple pie, whether its for breakfast or for a late night snack, or anywhere in between.

When making apple pie I usually stick to my mom's recipe. But I was in the mood for something that took a little less time than making my own crust and was a little bit different. I found a recipe for an apple crumb pie made with an almond crumb crust by Martha Stewart. Yummy! This pie is delicious! The crust is almondy and crispy, while the apples are warm and tart. I even got to use my new apple peeler. Trust me, if you don't have one of these and you use apples a lot in cooking then you need to get one. They will make your life so much easier, especially around this time of year.

Apple Crumb Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewarts Baking Handbook
For the filling I used my mom's recipe

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup plus 1 2 tbsp almond meal (or used ground almonds)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks of butter, really cold and cut into small pieces

1) Whisk together all of the ingredients except the butter. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it it is crumbly. Then with your hands squeeze the dough together until it starts to come together a little bit.

2)Press a little more than half of the filling into a 9-inch pie pan then freeze for 15 minutes.

3) Follow instructions for making the filling
4) Add the filling to the pie and then dot with a few tbsp of butter from apple pie recipe, then cover with remaining dough crumbs

5) Bake in a 350 F oven for about 1 hour, then let cool and enjoy!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Autumn Minestrone

After the dust (or flour in my case) has settled from Halloween festivities we decided that we needed something a little healthier in our diet. Something warm and comforting, yet not overly heavy, like pot roast. I love pot roast, but sometimes you need to mix it up a bit. So I decided to make a hearty stew full of sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, kale, and orecchiette. An Autumn minestrone if you will. This is one of those meals that will become a favorite. Perfect for lunch and dinner. I even had some for breakfast to warm me up. It's also a very versatile recipe. You can spice it up or spice it down, adding whichever seasonings you like best. I'm always a big fan of crushed red pepper and rosemary, but if you like something else, by all means, add that. I hope everyone is staying warm as the weather cools down!

Autumn Minestrone
1 onion, diced
5 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalk celery, diced
3 sweet potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
5 cups or so of kale (I used about half of a bag of the already chopped kind)
2 cups cooked white beans
5 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp rosemary
Crushed red pepper to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz cooked orecchiette or other small pasta
Olive oil

1) In a dutch oven saute the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic until onion is translucent, then add the chicken stock, sweet potatoes, white beans, seasonings, and kale
2) Simmer soup until vegetables are soft and to your liking
3) Add the orecchiette and stir to combine, season to taste and pour into a giant bowl and enjoy!