Happy New Years Eve! I'm off in a minute to attend a nice little shindig, but first wanted to share with you my very quick, easy, yet terribly adorable dessert for the evening: dessert sushi. Made the rest of the evening cooking much, much easier to handle. A big thanks to Lolo for the great idea!
31 December 2007
30 December 2007
Thank goodness I made several soups in the past few weeks - I have been sick as can be. As in, I think I now know how a crackhead feels. I'm hot, I'm freezing, I'm hot again. My skin hurts and I'm sweating buckets. My eyes burn. My throat hurts so bad I can hardly swallow. Charming, isn't it? Hopefully I'm feeling fresh as daisies tomorrow, because I'm in charge of hors d'oeuvres at the New Years Eve Cocktail Party we're attending tomorrow evening. I even have a rockin' new BCBG cocktail dress and killer stilletos to try out for the occasion. Stupid cold.
And yes, I'm officially pouting through my sweaty hazy fever now.
Okay, I'm ready to chug a glass of OJ and then back to my (do I want it warm? Or chilled?) bed right now. Have a lovely evening all! Will check back soon :)
African Peanut Soup
1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4- to- 1-in. cubes
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
3 c. low-salt chicken broth
1 c. coconut milk
1/3 c. creamy peanut butter (do not use natural or old-fashioned)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
5 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
2 medium zucchini, diced (we used patty-pan squash instead)
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 c. drained canned diced tomatoes in juice
Combine chicken cubes and hot sauce in medium bowl and toss to coat well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss again. Whisk chicken broth, coconut milk, peanut butter, and tomato paste in another medium bowl to blend.
Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and zucchini; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add chicken and sauté until no longer pink on outside, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.Add broth mixture and tomatoes to pot.
Simmer until chicken is cooked through and flavors blend, about 5 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.
28 December 2007
25 December 2007
Gratiutious cookie decorating shots.
Testing the cookie frosting.
Enjoying Nemmie's Christmas Eve soup (okay, okay, to be honest: Nemmie brought the recipe, Hubs made the soup).
Decorating a gingerbread house.
Showing off the finished product.
First Chore of Christmas morning: makin' cheese balls with Nemmie, for the afternoon cheese trays.
Enjoying the fruits of our labor later (who knew the kid had a thing for feta).
Is that Santa I hear?? Gotta go!
A very Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope it was as fun and food-filled as ours!
23 December 2007
First off: enjoy this image of chopped figs in all their glory. This was the only picture I could snap off before the winter storm blew in, blocking any natural light and dumping sleet and snow everywhere. Should make for a fun drive to my parents' house later today. Super. Can't wait to scrape all the ice and snow off the car and freeze my butt off and potentially drop presents in the white stuff while trying to pack up the car and then forget something in my rush to get out of the weather...
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature
Filling and Cookies:
9 oz. dried Mission figs, stems discarded
1/2 c. dried currants
3/4 c. honey
1/4 c. orange juice
2 Tbsp. applesauce
3/4 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
A generous pinch of the following ground spices: cloves, nutmeg, and ginger
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
Splash of rum
1 c. almonds, chopped
1 large egg, beaten to blend
For the pastry dough: Whisk the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl to blend. Mix the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the egg mixture and mix with a fork until the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough in 2 and flatten into disks. Wrap the dough disks in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper. Finely chop the figs and currants in a food processor. Add the honey, orange juice, applesauce, spices, rum, and lemon zest, and pulse just to blend. Scrape the fig mixture into a medium bowl. Stir in the almonds. Transfer the fruit mixture to a pastry bag.
Roll out 1 disk of dough on a floured work surface to 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch diameter biscuit cutter, cut out dough rounds. Gather the dough scraps into a disk, then cover and refrigerate while assembling the cookies. Spoon the fruit mixture in the center of each dough round. Lightly moisten the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges to seal. Arrange the cookies evenly apart on the prepared baking sheets. Brush the tops of the cookies with egg wash. Bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 18 minutes.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely. Repeat with the refrigerated dough scraps and remaining filling.
22 December 2007
So, I finish this baking project. I carefully set it up for photos. Hubs curiously watches from the corner of the room. I snap away, from several different angles. I shift the lighting, I move around some mushrooms. After several shots, I am fairly satisfied that I've got what I need.
I step back finally finished, with Hubs next to me. We both stare for a moment more, and then both start snickering uncontrollably. Spurts and giggles and doubled over, even. "This is officially the weirdest thing you've ever baked", he blurts out while gasping for air. Oh yes, my darling, this is not my usual boring cookie or cake recipe. This is Yule Log.
So I'm now a member of the Daring Bakers. Yup. It's official. And the first challenge, thankfully, wasn't some intimidating pastry or uber-complicated cake. It was, instead, the Yule Log. Woohoo, Yule Log! While my father (who was the first to hear of this challenge) claims our family has made this before, I most certainly have never made one. Ever.
Also known as the Buche de Noel, the Yule Log is a long-standing Christmas tradition in many countries. Originating in France, it is basically a genoise cake rolled and frosted with buttercream, then decorated to resemble the fireplace yule log. Legend has it that Napoleon I disallowed French residents from lighting their fireplaces during the winter (it was said at that time that the cold air spread disease). So the French residents compensated for their loss of Christmas logs by baking up this delicious dessert, a replacement to gather around and warm themselves with holiday cheer. Interesting theory, I gotta say.
Where was I again? Oh, yes. The recipe. Now, about my Yule Log: I actually loved making this. So much fun! The mushrooms were no problem. The genoise: it turned out fine, although I must admit - I was so busy following the recipe, that I forgot to add any fun flavorings. So mine is quite plain. I did, however, remember to add chopped hazelnuts to my roll's buttercream. Yum, that's all I can say. The buttercream for this recipe didn't give me any trouble while making it, and it is the most delicious buttercream I've ever encountered. The issues I had: first off, my roll was terrible. I spread my buttercream over the entire cake, no room along the edges for rolling, so my roll is pretty novice-looking. First timer alert! Also? I stuck my outer-frosting buttercream in the fridge, to chill while my Swiss roll chilled. Not. Good. At all. I tried whipping it with a fork after bringing it to room temperature, then adding some cocoa powder, but that didn't help much. It turned out very... chunky. Oopsies. Guess I should have whipped it back to shape with the beaters. But no bother! Still tasted like a dream!
All in all a winner. Can't say that I'll be making another in the recent future, but definitely a recipe to file away. And I must admit: so excited to finally be a member of the amazing group called the Daring Bakers. Looking forward to future challenges, ladies! Thanks for having me! And bring on January, I think I'm ready.
4 large egg whites
1 c. sugar
24 Tbsp. (3 sticks, or 1-1/2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
2 Tbsp. rum or brandy
8 oz. almond paste
2 c. icing sugar
3 to 5 Tbsp. light corn syrup
- Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
- Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
- Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
- Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
- Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
- Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
- Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
- Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
- Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
- Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
- Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
21 December 2007
I got this recipe out of the Washington Post's Food section. Very different, I thought. Plus I absolutely adore the dried strawberries I can pick up at my favoritest market in town, The Merc. So off I went, spent my pennies on some good white chocolate and strawberries, and hit the kitchen.
3/4 c. sugar (may substitute superfine sugar)
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c. flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/4 Tsp. salt
1/2 c. finely chopped white chocolate
3/4 c. dried strawberries, finely chopped
20 December 2007
One problem that I tend to have while Christmas shopping is that, well, I find lots of fun things for myself. Usually not of the apparel or electronics kind, though – more of the cooking/baking supplies kind. Christmas is the one time of the year when I’m baking for a distinct gift-type purpose, and I take full advantage of that fact! Anytime we’re out shopping for holiday presents, I make a point to check out the baking products if possible.
Hubs made the mistake of walking into World Market with me a few days ago, and we came out with a nice supply of baking paraphernalia (er, and no gifts for anyone else). Aside from the decorator’s chocolate and paper loaf pans and other baking toys, I had picked up some Guittard cappuccino chips. Armed with a new recipe from dianasdesserts.com, I set to work (although I changed it a wee bit so I could incorporate my new cappuccino chips).
I didn’t roll the cookies in sugar as in the recipe below; instead, I added about a cup of the chips to my dough. One thing I must say about these cookies: I’m not fond of the cinnamon in them. I love love love me some cinnamon, but I do not like it paired with chocolate. The taste just doesn’t do anything for me, so these cookies weren’t a favorite of mine. No matter though: Hubs gobbled up my test cookies, so I figure they can’t be half bad. They are very very cakey, so I recommend storing them in an air-tight container with parchment or wax paper between layers (otherwise they will stick like mad).
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, coffee granules, baking soda, and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in egg whites and yogurt until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
18 December 2007
What does a lady do when she has little time but needs to bring cookies into the office for a party? And therefore needs an easy, delicious, and impressive cookie recipe? Why, she turns to the lovely Barefoot Contessa, of course!
16 December 2007
This goodie comes from the book Baking Boot Camp. It's actually more of an instructional book, and very cool. It's a diary of sorts of one woman's experience attending a CIA Baking course, including the disciplines of baked-good recipes, the science behind baking, and some wonderful recipes at the back of the book. Hubs gave me this book (and a few other cookbooks) for our anniversary this year, and for that I'm eternally grateful. I highly recommend this sucker if you don't have it already!
Anyhoo, wouldn't you know - the author's recipe for chocolate chunk cookies also happens to include dried cherries(!). Perfect, considering I have quite the stash of dried cherries at my disposal for such a thing. And I wanted to make a chocolate chip-ish cookie for Christmas. This one is good, a nice basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. The cookies end up very soft and the use of bittersweet (instead of semi-sweet) chips is a nice surprise. It plays off the cherries quite well!
So here you go, you knew the cherries were going to be included in a recipe somewhere this holiday season. And they are perfect in this recipe.
Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies
3 c. all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
¾ c. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
1 c. tart dried cherries
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Blend until incorporated.
Mix in the sifted dry ingredients, the chocolate chunks, and cherries. Use one of the following methods to shape the cookies: use two spoons to drop the dough onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. If desired, slightly flatten the cookies before baking. Or, roll dough into a log, chill until firm, then slice and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake about 12-14 minutes, and transfer to wire racks to cool.
14 December 2007
I read a wide variety of food blogs on a daily basis (an addictive habit, I must admit). When I found out that Susan (at FoodBlogga) was hosting a blog event called Eat Christmas Cookies, I decided that I had to make something. Seemed too fun to pass up. And I wanted to bake the most amazing cookie. I thought of making the rosemary-mint cookies I read about in the LA Times, or maybe something delicate with lots of icing detail. Or perhaps a rolled cookie that would photograph well. To be honest, a million different "impress the masses" recipes were floating around in that brain of mine.
12 December 2007
I figured I'm going to fill out the rest of the month with my Christmas cookie recipes for this year. Festive! Topical! And makes my life oh-so-much easier, given how hectic things are right now. Heh. Although I have also made a few stellar soups, if I do say so myself, so those will be posted once I get through all my goodies.
1 1/2 c. (9-oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 c. chopped nuts
10 December 2007
08 December 2007
I had some leftover hazelnuts from a prior baking experiment (posted soon my dears, I promise). I decided to make some hazelnut cookies. Found this recipe at allrecipes.com and adapted them a bit. I actually think this came from a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe to begin with (I recall her making a cookie strikingly similar to this, on a long-ago episode on Food Network).
I made these these early this morning around breakfast time, and let me just say: these suckers are perfect with a nice hot cup of coffee. Thin and crunchy, full of hazelnut flavor with a nice drizzle of chocolate on top. Yum. A crispy cookie form of biscotti, essentially. Dunk away!
Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and coarsely chopped
2 (1oz) squares semisweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
Blend flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, espresso powder, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and vanilla. Using the pulse cycle-or pressing on/off button on your food processor, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add nuts; blend until finely chopped. Transfer dough to floured work surface. Knead just until dough comes together.
Divide dough in half. Press each half into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.
Bake at 350 F (175 C) until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 2 minutes then remove sides of pan. Cut each shortbread round into 24 wedges. Cool completely. (Or! Use cookie cutters like I did.)
Stir chocolate in a saucepan over medium-low heat, until chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Drizzle chocolate mixture over cookies. Let stand until chocolate sets.
06 December 2007
It's been a carbonara kind of week. You know that week: when you're baking like a fiend and doing holiday cards and running everywhere shopping and have a million engagements? And tired of inhaling fast food or scrounged up leftovers while standing over the sink? A week like that calls for a nice carbonara - warm, easy, homey, and comes together in the time it takes to boil a pot of pasta.
1/4 to 1/2 lb. thickly sliced bacon
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table
04 December 2007
About This Blog
I'm exploring the world of cooking from my home in Middle America, and from several aspects: baking, cooking, restaurant reviews, and notes on regional foods when I'm lucky enough to travel. My hope is for this blog to serve as a sturdy base for me to better develop cooking, baking, and foodie skills.
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