Sunday, August 31, 2008

DB: Eclairs!

August's Daring Bakers Challenge was eclairs - something new to me (again). I really liked this one! Even though I ran into some hiccups... they were still scrumptious!
The challenge rules required that we use the given pate a choux recipe, and either the given glaze recipe OR the given chocolate filling. I felt that a chocolate glaze and filling would be too much, so instead I made the given chocolate glaze and two different fillings: cappuccino flavored, and the given chocolate filling... just without the chocolate (thus, vanilla).
I got the cappuccino recipe from a recent issue of Bon Appetit magzine (linked above). I really liked the flavor, but the filling didnt set up as well as the given recipe, so it was too runny.
I encountered two problems with this challenge: first, the pate a choux. It came together GREAT - perfectly! I piped them (used a ziplock with the corner snipped - perfect!) and threw them in the oven. They rose nicely... I pulled them out... and POOF. Fell flat. To the point that it was hard to slice them later! I made a second batch, this time trying the trick of letting them slowly cool in the oven after they were done baking. Same thing.
After reading some tips on the forums, I think they probably just needed more baking time (hard to tell since they were golden and puffed as the recipe says they should be when done). It was ok though, still tasted great!
Me second issue was with the glaze, and I am still not sure what happened. I followed the directions to a T, and yet after adding my first tsp of butter, the glaze broke. It became a beautiful choclate glaze, swimming in melted butter. I ended up adding double the chocolate sauce to it, and that mostly fixed it... regardless, it was deeply dark (I used half unsweetened and half bittersweet chocolate) and tasted beautiful :)
Overall, a great challenge! It really did challenge me, and it tasted great! Thanks!
Check out the recipe here!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

R2R: Tamales!

This month's Recipes to Rival Challenge was tamales! Definitely new to me... and not so bad really! Check out the recipe here (and past challenges too!). I made a full batch, with three fillings: the black bean one given (with the addition of fresh local corn), the seitan one (except with chicken instead - serving to my wheat allergy sister, and we like meat ;) and the addition of sharp cheddar), and my own - pork tenderloin - baked in the oven wtih the chicken until done (seasoned with S&P, NM Chili Powder, Oregano), then torn into small strips and tossed with various seasonings (all the ones used in the other recipes really), plus slices of fresh tomato. YUM! the pork one was deemed the favorite by all.
I defintely made the masa mixture WAY too thick... didnt much like that. But it was reltaivel easy, albeit time consuming ;)
Note: my "open" pics came out terribly... all steamed and out of focus. Apologies!
I served them with storebought (no time!) green and red sauces. Yummy! thanks to our hosts!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kashmiri Chicken

For my birthday, my siblings gave me a copy of "The Food of India: a Journey for Food Lovers." SO good! It covers a variety of regions of India, and offers gorgeous food-porn pictures, and explanations and descriptions. So far - LOVE!

This dish was great. Most of the ingredients I had on hand already, bonus! Very flavorful and so unique. We both loved it! I would definitely make again!

3.5 pounds chicken or chicken pieces (I used a combo of skinless/boneless thighs and breasts)
6 cardamon pods
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 cm (3/4 in) cinnamon stick
8 peppercorns
6 cloves
2/3 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 T ghee (clarified butter) or oil (I used oil)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp saffron threads

If using a whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces. Remove skin and bones and discard. Cut meat into bite sized pieces.

Remove seeds from cardamon pods. Place small frying pan over low and roast teh coriander seeds until aromatic. Remove, and roast the cumin, then the cinnamon. Grind the cardamon, roasted spices, peppercorns, and cloves to a fine powder in spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Finely chop nuts in food processor or spice grinder.

Heat ghee or oil in a large casserole (I used a deep pan with lid) over low and fry onion to golden brown. Add garlic, ginger, chicken and fry rapidly for 5 min. Add the ground spices and chicken stock and simmer, covered tightly, for 30 minutes.

Stir ground nuts into yogurt. Mix saffron with 1 tsp hot water. Add yogurt and saffron to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 10 min. Season with salt to taste. Serve with rice.


Garlic-sauteed Green Beans

Let me preface this entry by saying that I dont really like green beans. They dont do it for me, so when I say a green bean recipe is good... IT IS! ;)

I made this awhile ago so my apologies for the lack of precision.

In a saute pan, heat olive oil with lots of garlic (I used soem fresh and some frozen cubes - I like the frozen cubes because they are in paste form and really coat veggies well). Add 1/2 an onion, diced. Cook until the onion starts to brown on medium-med high.

Meanwhile, steam beans until JUST turning bright green (err on the side of undercooking rather than overcooking).

Toss the beans into the pan on medium high (my stove runs cool so I put it on high). You want it hot enough that the beans will get some dark color. After a minute or so, add cerry or grape tomatos, halved. Cook on a hot pan stirring occassionally until the beans and tomatos are starting to blister a bit.
Season with salt and pepper and top with Parmesan!

VERY flavorful!

Zucchini Ribbons

1) Take zucchini and run through mandoline (or carefully slice super duper thin)
2) coat with Olive oil and minced garlic
3) Spread on cooling racks placed on a cookie sheet and season with kosher salt
4) Roast until start to brown
5) Flip. Repeat.
6) Serve!
Yum! Interesting texture, and you just really cant go wrong with: garlic, salt, oil, roasted veggies :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

DB: Filbert Gateau

This cake was the Daring Baker's Challenge for July... but my July was CRAZY busy, and ended with a nasty nasty summer cold... so I had to postpone completing it. I finally made it this week (served it for dessert for my brother's last dinner before college )

I am SO glad I still made it... WOW! This cake was SO GOOD! The buttercream alone was worth it... All the elements worked well. I didnt really have any issues with any elements. My ganache wasnt the smoothest, but for a first ever ganache, Ill take it!

And the taste... ohhhh the taste! I followed the directions for flavors - hazelnuts, cointreau for the liquor (though I forgot the rum in the buttercream), apricot glaze. I am really glad I made it since it is somewhat similar to the Opera Cake which was such a flop for me. This one, YUM!

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise

1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum

1 recipe Praline Buttercream

½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 recipe Apricot Glaze

1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using

3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned

2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

7 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. grated lemon rind

5 lg. egg whites

¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan. Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute. Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds. With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup

Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water

¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream

1 recipe Swiss Buttercream

1/3 cup praline paste

1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream

4 lg. egg whites

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm

1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice

1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.

Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste

1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless

2/3 cup Sugar

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze

Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves

1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze

Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake **Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt

6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream

1 tbsp. light corn syrup

1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)

¾ tsp. vanilla

½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside. Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream. Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes. Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake. Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homegrown.... PIZZA

This month's Homegrown Gourmet challenge features... PIZZA!

Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Cooking Experiments is the host, and I think chose a great challenge! I ended up making two different kinds (since most pizza dough recipes make a ton anyhow... and I had great ideas for a pizza for my home, and one for DHs hometown too!)

First, the pizza for CT: this is basically a local pizza. We have a fabulous farm nearby, Rosedale Farm, with the best corn... anywhere! This is where we get all our produce from in the summer, and fall, thanks largely to a weekly farm membership. All the toppings for this pizza were included in that weeks bag even! This pizza featured roasted garlic mashed with olive oil and smeared as the 'sauce,' local heirloom tomatos, sliced, fresh basil chiffonade, super sweet yellow corn sliced off the cob, and two medium balls of local fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced. It was SO good! Even better the next day, reheated. Only thing I would do differently is use way more garlic - the flavor did not come through as much as I would have liked.

Pizza dough recipe from Cooks Illustrated, online. I made the crust as thin as I could without breaking!

Pizza numero two is representative of DHs hometown of Johnstown PA. In western PA, pierogies are crazy popular. They are sold at almost every booth at the local city fair every year... where I had never really heard of them before! They exist up north... but generally our filled pasta of choice is ravioli :)

Normally, pierogies are potato filled pasta, that are cooked through and served with carmelized onions. They are very yummy and very unhealthy! There are a ton of variations, so I chose our favorite to base this pizza on - the cheddar bacon pierogi. MMmmmm...

The crust of the pizza would be the pasta. I topped it with lots of carmelized onions, and then mashed potatos (I used small new potatos, boiled until cooked through, and roughly mashed with some butter and milk added to taste) that I mixed with about a cup of cabot shredded sharp cheddar (the best bagged pre-shredded cheddar in my area IMO) and a package of that precooked bacon... roughly shredded. When the pizza was almost done, I added even more cheddar on top of it.

WOW. This pizza was REALLY good! I really did feel like the flavor captured the essence of pierogies, too.

I dont really ever make homemade pizza, but I may be a convert... this stuff was good, and easier than expected! Thanks for the challenge Elizabeth :)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Roasted Zucchini Ribbons

Another use for the piles of summertime squash! I thinly sliced zucchini with my mandoline and then wrapped in paper towels for a bit to try to get some of the moisture out. I put the ribbons in a tupperware container with olive oil, kosher salt, and minced garlic, sealed and and shook to coat.
Then, I laid them out on cooling racks that were on cookie sheets.

Roast at 450 for about 10 minutes or until browning - serve immediately (mine sat out and were cold... but still yummy!)

Chicken with Squash

This is a dish I threw together using some veggies we had on hand from our Rosedale Farm membership and it was fantastic!
2 chicken breasts (cut in half and flattened a bit)
2 medium to large tomatos, diced
Garlic. Lots of it.
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper
italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, and thyme are what I used)
Zucchini and Summer Squash, diced
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
This is a dish I cooked by rote so the amounts are to taste/what you have. I think I used 1 large zucchini and 2 small yellow squash, so the amounts are about even.
In a large pan, heat oil over medium high. Add garlic (I just used the frozen Trader Joe garlic - I find they arent as strong tasting so throw in extras) Season the chicken with salt, pepper, herbs and add to hot pan. When you flip teh chicken (7 minutes or so, well browned) also add the tomatos. Pan should still be hot so the tomatos will break down and brown a bit too. Stir the tomatos occasionally and cook to finish the chicken.
Meanwhile in a second large pan, cook the squash and onions plus oil over medium high heat to brown. Add the squash and onion mixture to the chicken and tomatos once both are well browned and the chicken is cooked through. Top with grated parmesan cheese and add some more garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. The half breasts plus lots of hearty veggies made this a good dish if you are trying to up your veggies at dinner/lower your meat intake.
SO good and came together quickly and easily. You could do it all in one pan, but them not likely to get the sear on the veggies, which I liked. This would be good with a whole wheat pasta, too. Maybe rotini.