Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Knead Artisan Bread

one pound loaves
Hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving!  Sorry for the delayed absence, we've been spending some time with my family (who unfortunately have had extremely spotty internet access) in Minnesota.
I think I have a problem. I have developed a compulsive baking addiction. I managed to bake my way through a 25 pound Costco bag of flour in a month. That's a whole lotta carbs. 

Fortunately, I am not stingy and am an excellent pusher of my habit. Case in point, this bread recipe. It has been my go to recipe the last couple of weeks for gatherings. "I'll bring the bread!" I kindly volunteer. Homemade bread is such a treat but has the reputation of being such a chore. This recipe however, is as simple as it gets. It has made it virtually impossible for me to buy bread from the store when I know how cheap the raw ingredients actually are.

Since this is the perfect time of year to be making soup and other comfort foods, here is the perfect recipe for an accompaniment!  It also feels especially appropriate to mention while I am in Minnesota that this recipe comes from an awesome book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by authors with Minnesota ties, Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois.  I highly recommend you check it out--this recipe is only the starting point of some really amazing recipes!
5 Minute No Knead Artisan Bread
Makes 4 one pound loaves (I usually make 2 two pound loaves) but can easily be halved
1 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups warm water
6 1/2 cups all- purpose flour (can substitute up to half whole wheat flour)

In a large container with a fitted lid (I like to use a 1 gallon size plastic ice cream bucket--just make sure not to use a glass container for risk of it bursting), stir together yeast, salt and sugar. Stir in water and mix until well combined. Dump flour in all in one batch and stir with a wooded spoon just until there is no longer dry flour and the dough is together in one big sticky mess. Cover container loosely with lid and allow dough to rise on the counter until doubled in size (2-3 hours). At this point, you can attach lid firmly and refrigerate dough until ready to use.

To bake: sprinkle flour over top of dough. Use a serrated knife to cut off desired amount of dough. Use hands to stretch top of dough over and around sides to form a smooth ball, using a small amount of flour if needed. Don't worry if the bottom is rough, it will smooth out. Sprinkle corn meal or oat bran onto a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet. Place dough ball on prepared sheet and allow to rise for 40 minutes. 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. When you turn on the oven, place a pizza stone on the middle rack and a broiler pan on the bottom rack.

After dough has risen for 40 minutes, sprinkle additional flour over top of dough and use serrated knife to make a couple slashes in the top of the dough (I like to make an "x" or cross shape in top). Slide dough onto pizza stone and as quickly as possible, pour 1 cup of water into broiler pan. Shut oven door and bake at 450 for 25-35 minutes or until crust is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped. Remove from oven and allow to cool complete,y before cutting into it (to avoid having a squished loaf of bread--but I dare you to try and sit that long!).

Recipe slightly adapted from: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies

Oh. My. Word.
These are by far the best cookies I have ever made.  And just because I generally don't make very good cookies--it's that whole having to measure properly thing----does not mean that you shouldn't take my recommendation seriously. I have been making them and immediately needing to give them away so I don't eat them all and have had several requests for the recipe since.

And why would you not want to try them?  I realize that I, as a girl who still likes to sneak lumps of brown sugar when my kids aren't looking might be a bit biased toward such a brown sugary cookie, but these really take the cake.  Er, cookie.  Browned butter combined with brown sugar makes for an incredible combination. The cookies are chewy and practically melt in your mouth with toast-butter toffee-caramel flavors.
You will have the most popular cookie at the exchange. Trust me.

Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies
Makes about 2 Dozen Cookies
from Cook's Illustrated

14 tablespoons butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (about 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Continue to cook the butter until it is browned a dark golden color and smells nutty, about 1 to 3 minutes (don't use a dark, non stick skillet because you won't be able to tell when the butter is browned). Transfer the browned butter to a bowl and stir the rest of the butter into the hot butter until it melts- let this rest for 15 min.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a baking dish, mix granulated sugar and a ¼ cup of the brown sugar until combined well; set this mixture aside to roll dough balls in. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Add 1 ¾ cup brown sugar and salt to cooled butter and mix until there are no lumps. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla to butter mixture and mix well, then add flour and mix until just combined. Roll dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter, and roll balls in brown sugar and white sugar mixture. Place balls about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake sheets one at a time until cookies are puffy and lightly browned, about 12- 14 minutes. (It says the cookies will look slightly raw between some of the cracks and seem underdone, but be careful not to overbake.  Also, my cookies turned out flat, flat, flat and not puffy at all--perhaps the Colorado altitude?) Cool on sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool.

Source: Cooks Illustrated by way of South in Your Mouth

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grandma Pauline's Apple Pie

Today, I have the very fine privilege of having a guest post on Frosting for the Cause, a project of 365 food bloggers who share a story and recipe honoring women in their lives affected by cancer.  I used the opportunity to honor my husband's late Grandma, Pauline.  She taught me how to make her famous apple pie and I am attempting to carry on the legend.  Please head over to Frosting for the Cause and check it out! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Last night I polled the girls I was babysitting (it was really fun to have girl time with my friends' daughters while they were able to have a date night) on their favorite things to eat for dinner.  This was after I had fed them a decidedly grown up Autumn menu of the Pioneer Woman's Pork Roast with Apples and Onions over Wild Rice with Roasted Brussels Sprouts which they very politely ate and were very good sports about but I don't think will be asking for anytime soon--I thought it was pretty good, though!).  All three of them said quite confidently: Macaroni and Cheese. 

I don't think they're alone.  Mac and Cheese is a favorite among many of us and even though most kids are partial to the stuff that comes in a blue box, as an adult I would pick the homemade kind anytime.  It's good as a main dish, it's good as a side dish, it's even lovelier to bring to a pot luck so that you can spread around the cheesy wealth!  Check out the make ahead option if you're a planner!

Classic Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb. pasta shapes (I like to use elbows)
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
a few dashes of hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
3 1/2 cups milk
8 oz. Colby Jack cheese, shredded
8 oz. Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
ground black pepper
3/4 cup crushed buttery cracker crumbs (like Ritz)

Directions: Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add in a few teaspoons of salt and pasta shapes to water and cook just until pasta begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Drain the pasta and set aside in the colander. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In the same pot, melt butter over medium high heat.  Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly just until golden (about 1 minute).  Stir in dry mustard, garlic powder, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  Whisk in chicken broth and milk, a little at a time, until smooth.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil and is thickened, about 10 minutes.  Gradually stir in cheeses, whisking until completely smooth.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Stir drained pasta into cheese sauce. 

Transfer mixture to a greased 9"x11" baking dish.  Sprinkle with crushed cracker crumbs* and bake uncovered, 30-35 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and crumb topping is golden brown.  Also, as Annie suggests, you might want to put a baking sheet under the dish to catch any sauce that may bubble over. 

*At this point, the dish can be wrapped tightly with foil and refrigerated for up to 2 days.  To serve, bake covered at 400˚ F until the filling is hot throughout, about 40-45 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake until the breadcrumbs are crisp, 15-20 minutes more.

Slightly adapted from: Annie's Eats

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple and Pear Crisp

I can't think of too many desserts that embody Fall more than an Apple and Pear Crisp.  Both fruits are in season right now and when sweetly spiced and baked with a buttery crumble topping, it really is a magical combination.  

It also doesn't hurt that it's simple to throw together yet completely lovely for guests.  It reheats beautifully so it's a good one to take to someone as well (include with a pint of vanilla ice cream for a thoughtful gift). 

These cute dishes are the perfect size for sharing. 

Apple and Pear Crisp
4 medium firm pears (I used Anjou)
4 medium firm apples (I used combination of Granny Smith, Jonagold and Fuji)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root (about 1" chunk, peeled) (optional or sub 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

Ice cream or whipped cream for serving, optional
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Peel, core, and cut the pears and apples into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Pour into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch oval baking dish (or split between a few smaller dishes as I did).

    For the topping:
    Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

    Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm, topped with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

    Note: A friend of mine gave the tip that she doubles the topping recipe and then keeps the crumble in the freezer for an impromptu dessert when needed.  So smart!

    Recipe slightly adapted from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa's recipe

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Rolo Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

    In mourning/celebration (however you may want to look at it) of the end of Daylight Savings Time and the fact that it's only Monday and I kind of want to put my kids in a sled (I guess we're supposed to get snow tonight?) and just give them a hearty shove and see how far down the street they make it (oh, my goodness, that's terrible!), I think this is going to be a sweet-filled week.

    Starting us off: Rolo Cupcakes

    The famed chocolate covered caramel candy, Rolos, hidden inside chocolate cupcakes topped with a salty-sweet and lighter than air Caramel Buttercream Frosting then haloed by a rich chocolate ganache and finally, crowned with an additional Rolo candy.  These made some pretty fun Birthday cupcakes for a sweet friend last week and since making them, I am thinking of a reason to make them again (or, try them with a different kind of candy...).

    The Buttercream is especially a triumph for me because I think it is one of the only frosting recipes I've ever liked.  Growing up, my mom was a professional cake decorator and so us kids grew up on cake scraps and licking out the leftover frosting out of the bowl.  Suffice it to say, I both OD'd and became pretty discerning when it came to cake and frosting.  My mom introduced me to this buttercream frosting recipe (traditionally my least favorite of frosting offerings) and it's amazing.  It's almost more of a whipped cream consistency and even better, is almost completely hands off in the technique.  Sweet!

    Rolo Cupcakes
    makes about 18 cupcakes
    1 box Devil's food chocolate cake mix
    1/2 cup warm water
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1 cup sour cream
    1 small package instant chocolate pudding
    unwrapped Rolos candies, 2 per cupcake (one for inside, one for garnish on top)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except Rolos. With an electric mixer on low speed, mix to combine. Raise speed to medium and blend for about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl.  Scoop batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling almost to the top of the liner.  Press one Rolo into each cup of batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-23 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes.  Remove from pans and allow to fully cool on wire racks.   

    Caramel Butter Cream Frosting:
    (Makes about 2 cups of frosting.  I doubled the batch so that I wouldn't have to worry about running out of frosting and ended up having about a cup of frosting leftover)

    3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons chilled Heavy Whipping Cream
    1 stick butter, softened
    1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    pinch of Kosher salt
    3 tablespoons caramel flavored syrup (Hershey's makes a bottled one--or use caramel ice cream topping)

    In a combine all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  Run the food processor continuously for 5 minutes.  The mixture will be smooth but thick and kind of funky looking  

    Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer.  With whisk or paddle attachment (I prefer the whisk), allow the mixer to run continuously for 15 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides, until frosting is light and fluffy and the consistency of whipped cream.  Transfer frosting to a pastry bag with desired tip (or in my case, the only--quite wonky-shaped--one you can find after rifling through all your drawers). 

    Chocolate Ganache:
    1/4 cup Heavy Cream
    1 cup chocolate chips
    1 tablespoon honey
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    In a microwave safe dish, heat cream just until simmering (likely 30 seconds or less on high power, watch it closely!).  Stir in chocolate chips.  Allow to sit a couple minutes to allow chocolate to fully melt.  Stir mixture until smooth.  Stir in honey and vanilla.  Allow to cool until almost room temperature.

    To assemble:
    Pipe frosting in a mound on top of each cupcake.  I find it helps to start on the outside edge of the cupcake and work inward and upward (although I am certainly no cupcake frosting expert!).  Frost all the cupcakes and allow to chill so frosting hardens enough so that it won't melt under the ganache topping.  Once frosting has chilled, spoon a couple teaspoons of ganache over top of frosting being careful not to use too much so that it doesn't drip over the sides of the paper.  Press an unwrapped Rolo into the top of the cupcake.  Return to the fridge and chill.  Remove from fridge one hour before serving.

    Some overall concepts adapted from MyBakingAddiction.com
    Cupcake recipe adapted from Ann Byrn's "The Cake Mix Doctor"
    Frosting adapted from Rosie's Bakery Buttercream recipe

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Using up the Halloween Candy...

    Whopper Brownies

    I don't know about anyone else, but we have been in a serious Halloween Candy Coma.  I purposely bought candy that I wouldn't be tempted by to give away and we were able to pass all of that out.  Then, however, the boys brought home a huge stash from a Halloween party at their Great Grandma's and when I was at the grocery store yesterday, they had all the leftover candy for 50% off.  How can I turn down a bag of 100 Grands for only $1.57???

    Looking at the disgusting amount of candy precariously perched up on top of our fridge (out of the hands of a candy-thieving toddler), it's clear that some drastic measures need to be taken to clear this stuff out of here.  Thus, I put on of my favorite ways to use up leftover candy to good use today:

    Candy Brownies
    Let's be frank, here.  All I did was use a boxed brownie mix and added the called for water, flour and eggs.  Once I spread the batter into a prepared pan (line your pan with foil for easy removal!), sprinkle chopped up pieces of your favorite chocolate bars (or a combination of several kinds) and bake as directed.  This evening, I foisted brownies with chopped up Whoppers in them on our friends.  

    You can also do the same thing by stirring chopped up candy pieces into cookie dough (chocolate chip cookie dough minus the chocolate chips, sub the leftover Halloween candy).

    and then there's my husband's favorite use:

    Homemade Blizzards
    Stir chopped up candy pieces into softened vanilla ice cream.  Adding milk can help create a smoother texture.  This one is great because everyone can customize their own.

    You can keep candy in the freezer for up to a year and a lot of candies tend to break into pieces more easily when they're frozen, so this might be a good method of portion control...

    Some other ideas...
    Drop caramels or other non-chunky chocolate bars (Milky Way, Rolos and Three Musketeers, I'm looking at you) into hot coffee and stir to melt into a specialty coffee drink.

    Save colorful candies to decorate gingerbread houses.

    Check out Operation Shoe Box to send the candy to troops overseas

    Some Dental Offices participate in a Candy Buyback program where you trade your candy for prizes
    and such.

    For more really fun ideas, check here !

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter

    So apparently, October seems to have flown by.  I was rather taken aback when someone informed me today that Thanksgiving is 23 short days away, yikes!  Although I am feeling a little sad I missed the opportunity for posting some fun Halloween recipes, November holds plenty of promise.

    I'll save the posts on sides and desserts (gonna need to get a jump on my Turkey-Day menu planning!) for another day.  In the meantime, these simple pumpkin ravioli (helped by the shortcut of using Asian wonton wrappers--look for them in the refrigerated produce section) are creamy, comforting and enhanced by a nutty sage brown butter that is so yummy I wish I could bottle it and wear it as perfume.
    Pumpkin Ravioli in Sage Brown Butter
    1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (please oh please do not use the pie filling)
    1 4oz log of goat cheese (or 1 cup of ricotta cheese if you prefer a milder flavor)
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 package wonton wrappers (pictured are round Chinese dumpling wrappers which are just a bit thicker than wonton wrappers

    Sage Butter:
    1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) salted butter
    8-10 fresh sage leaves

    Shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving

    Directions: In a medium bowl, stir together all of ravioli ingredients except for wonton wrappers.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

    To assemble: Take a wonton wrapper, place a small spoonful of filling (1 heaping teaspoon) in the center of the wrapper.  Using your finger, brush water along the edges of wrapper.  Fold wrapper in half diagonally and press along edges to seal. Or, for a more decorative look, bring all four corners of the wrapper up to the center, pinching the opposite corners together and along edges to seal (making it look like a tiny pyramid--yeah, I meant to take a picture of that shape and seemed to have missed it. Sorry).  Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers and filling until complete.

    At this point, ravioli can be placed in a single layer on a cookie sheet, frozen individually and then transferred to a ziploc bag for later use.

    To cook: Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt to boiling water to season, if desired.  Reduce heat so that water simmers gently.  Drop ravioli in small batches into water and cook until ravioli rise to the surface, 5-7 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Repeat with remaining ravioli. 

    While ravioli are cooking, make the sage butter.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt butter.  Once butter is completely melted and starts to foam (and it will get really foamy!), add in sage leaves.  They will sizzle.  Stirring constantly, allow to cook the sage leaves briefly until they become crispy and the butter starts to turn a light nutty brown (make sure to watch closely as the butter will go from brown to burned quickly). 
    Add in ravioli and toss to coat.  Saute for a couple minutes until ravioli are warmed through start to brown on the edges (or you can also line ravioli in a single layer on a cookie sheet, drizzle with the brown butter and bake at 350 until ravioli are heated through and starting to brown on the edges).

    Serve immediately, garnished with crispy sage leaves and additional Parmesan.