Monday, December 22, 2014

Ginger Spiced Spritz

This cookie too a bit of work to get it right.  Cloves were the culprits.  A little goes a long, LONG way and the first batch thats all you tasted.  Got it right now and this is a righteous little cookie that packs a punch of flavor.

I like to take half the cookie batter and color it.  It adds to the festive look of your cookie plate by not having them all one color.  Call me funny, but presentation is everything.

Ginger Spice Spritz

  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 2 t ground ginger
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 c butter
  • 3/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 t orange extract'
  • decorative colored sugar sprinkles
  • food coloring

Cream together brown sugar, room temp butter, salt and orange extract until fluffy.

Combine flour and spices.  Sift together.  With stand mixer on low slowly add flour mixture to creamed butter and mix until smooth and all flour incorporated.  Optional: remove 1/2 of batter into seperate bowl.  Add a few drops of food color to the bowl and mix until color is uniform.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Load cookie dough into feed tube of a cookie press.  Select pattern die and press cookies according to package directions.  Sprinkle raw cookies with decorative sugars

Bake 12-14 minutes until firm. Cool on wire racks.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Balsamic Roasted Chicken Breast

File this under stupid easy and incredibly tasty.  Fresh herbs I usually have on hand...dried work just as well.  Just rub them in your hand to crush and activate the oils before adding to the marinade.

Balsamic Roasted Chicken Breast

  • 2 lbs Chicken breast halves
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 T fresh minced rosemary

Clean chicken breasts and remove tenders.  Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs in a large non reactive bowl.  Add chicken breasts and tenders.  Toss to coat.  Marinade 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350F.  Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place chicken breasts and tenders in sheet. Pour any remaining marinade over the meat.  Bake about 30 minutes until thickest breast reaches 165F.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sea Salt Caramel Molten Lava Cakes

This is the schiznit.  The best bomb diggety thing I've created in a while.  Sea Salt, caramel in a warm ooey gooey treat.  Served up with coffee ice cream next to it its hitting all the right notes.  RIGHTEOUS.

I inherited from a friend a dozen cans of Nestle dulce du leche and have been wondering what on earth to do with it all.  Topping brownies is a start but only uses barely a third of a can of the sweet thick caramel.  What to do with the rest left me thinking and searching.

Having tasted the caramel by itself its almost too sweet and needs to be rounded off for better depth of flavor.  Salt, specifically sea salt, not that iodized crap sold at the groc rounds out the flavor and enables you to cut through all the sweet and enjoy the caramel notes there too.

This took me a couple of tests to get the recipe just not salty and too cakey, another too salty that you needed a gallon of water afterwards. I used a general purpose sea salt, not an expensive flaked like Maldon.  Really this final iteration is awesome.

Sea Salt Molten Lava Cakes

  • 1 2/3 c caramel sauce
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 T flour
  • butter and extra flour to dust ramekins

Preheat oven to 375f
Butter and dust with flour 4 small ramekins.  Place on baking tray and set aside.

Place egg and yolks with salt in a stand mixer.  With whisk attachment beat on high until thick ribbon falls from whisk when stopped and raised.  About 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Beat in caramel until uniform.  Reduce speed and sprinkle on flour, beating until just mixed in.

Divide the batter between the 4 ramekins.  Place in oven and bake 14-16 minutes until the top is just set and they are still wiggly.  Immediately remove from oven.

To serve run a knife around the edge of the cake.  Grab hot ramekin in an oven mitt protected hand and place serving plate upside down over the ramekin. Invert.  Give the ramekin light tap to to release the cake.  Put a scoop or two of good quality coffee ice cream on the plate and serve.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Browned Butter Brownie with Caramel and Sea Salt

OK, this is my go too brownie.  I made it for the Holiday Meeting of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts.  It was a hit.  EVERYONE raved about how it was the best brownie they have ever had.  EVER.

But really whats not to love.  Its not overly sweet.  Its ooey, gooey chocolatey with just a touch of salt to make your taste buds dance.  Its really yummy.

I cheat too.  Big surprise, right!  Instead of making my own caramel, which I;m totally capable of I use canned Nestles La Lechera brand dulce du leche.  Really good stuff, thick, rich and very caramel.  Why make your own when you can just buy it?

I finish with Maldon Sea Salt, but really anygood quality flaked sea salt will work just fine.  For gawds sake don't use regular table salt, that iodized stuff tastes like metal and just ruins your tastebuds.

I use a good rich ultra pure ducth process cocoa called Black Onyx that I get from Surfas in Culver City. If you can find that, Hersheys Special Dark cocoa powder would be a great substitute.

Browned Butter Brownie with Caramel and Sea Salt

  • 10 T unsalted butter- cubed
  • 3/4 c Black Onyx Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 2 T water
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 C + 1 T all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 c La Lechera dulce du leche
  • 2 t flaked sea salt

Preheat oven to 325F.  Place a shelf in the bottom third of oven.   Line an 8X8 baking dish with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray

In medium sauce pan place cubed butter over medium heat.  Stir and cook until it stops foaming.  Remove from heat and add sugar, cocoa powder, and kosher salt.  Stir until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time and stir until smooth and shiny.  Stir in vamilla.  Stir in flour until smooth.  Fold in nuts.  Pour into prepared pan.

Place caramel into a plastic sandwich bag. Cut off a small, 1/4 inch corner of the bag.  Pipe the caramel in a criss cross pattern on the brownie mix.  Place in oven.  Bake 25-30 minutes until firm and tester comes out with a few crumbs on it.

Remove from oven.  Sprinkle with the flaked sea salt.  Cool completely.  Remove brownie from pan by grabbing sides of foil.  Cut into 16 brownies.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thai Grilled Shrimp Salad

This salad is a righteous incredible summer treat.  Pair it with a crisp Pinot Gris and you are in heaven.  Did I throw enough superlatives at it for ya?  I hope so as I really wanted to drive home how good it is as a meal.

Make your life easy here...remember to zest your lime first then juice it. Going the other way you'll get owwie fingers and lose most of the zest.

Thai Grilled Shrimp Salad
4 servings

  • 2 lbs shelled and deveined 16-20 count xlarge shrimp
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • zest of one lime
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 T red pepper flakes
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • 1 t fish sauce
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1/3 C rice wine vinegar
  • 2/3 C neutral oil like canola
  • 3/4 C fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 C fresh cilantro leaves
  • 8 C mixed greens (I use a spring mix)

Combine zest, pepper flakes, lime juice, garlic, sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, oils and 1/4 C each mint and cilantro leaves in a food processor.  Pulse several times until herbs and garlic are finely minced.  Reserve scant 1/2 cup of this for dressing the salad greens.

Skewer shrimp and place in a large glass baking dish.  Pour remaining dressing over the shrimp and toss to marinate.  Marinate 1 hour. 
Remove from marinade.  Shake off excess. Grill over hot grill 2-3 minutes per side until pink but still tender.

Toss mixed greens with remaining half cup of mint and cilantro leaves.  Toss with dressing and divide among 4 serving bowls.  Deskewer the shrimp and divide among the 4 bowls of greens.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pepperoni Roll Crostini

The idea for this isn't entirely mine.  I got the idea from a recent episode of The Chew.  The final execution and twist with slivers of Sun dried Tomato is pure fraz.

To make life easier I grabbed pre-made garlic and herb pizza dough from Fresh and Easy Markets.  Its so much more convenient than making your own from scratch when you don't have hours to devote to rising and punching down and rising.

Pepperoni Roll Crostini

  • 2 1 lb boules pizza dough
  • 1 6 oz package sliced pepperoni
  • 1/2 c shredded Parmesan
  • 12 Oz room temperature cream cheese
  • 1/2 c chiffonade fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 c thinly sliced sun dried tomato
  • Coarse sea salt
  • olive oil
  • corn meal

Lightly grease a baking sheet and scatter a couple of table spoons corn meal onto it.  Set aside.

Allow pizza dough to come to room temperature for easier handling.  Flour a large bread board.  Roll each boule into a 1/4" thick 12X18" rectangle.

Scatter half of the pepperoni over one of the rectangles.  Sprinkle on half of the shredded Parmesan. 

Take second rectangle and place on top of the rectangle with meet and cheese.  Repeat scattering of pepperoni and cheese.  

From long side of the rectangle begin to roll it up jelly roll style.  Place seam side down on baking sheet.  Cover with tea towel and let rise until double in size, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F  Just before baking brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.   Bake for 35-40 minutes until deep golden brown.  Cool on wire wrack until room temperature

Slice into 1/4 thick rounds.  Spread softened cream cheese evenly over all the rounds.  Sprinkle chiffonade of basil over all the rounds.  Place sun dried tomato on half of the finished rounds.

2nd layer of dough over the first ready to roll up jelly roll style

Pepperoni roll on the prepared baking sheet ready for to rise until double
Pepperoni Roll sliced into rounds ready for the cream cheese, basil and sun dried tomato layer

Friday, July 25, 2014

Old School Popsicles

These Popsicles taste better than the store bought.  Back in the day my Mom came up with or got the recipe as there were 5 of us she had to keep in cool snacks in MO in the summer.Everyone elses' Mom was freezing Kool-aid as is and calling it a Popsicle, but not my Mom. Frozen Kool-aid lacked a big punch of flavor and didn't freeze got dead ice once the flavor was sucked out.

What's the secret to the perfect homemade Popsicle?  Jello.  Simple 3 oz box of gelatin in the same flavor or complimentary flavor to your 2 quart pack of Kool-aid gave you the perfect consistency, texture and bright flavor.

To make it you simply bring 3 cups water to a boil. Stir in Jello until dissolved.  Stir in Koolaid mix, and sugar if useing the unsweetened Kool-aid.  Add cold water to make 2 quarts.  Pour off into your Popsicle molds, insert sticks, freeze and voila the perfect homemade popsicle is yours.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Peach Melba Crumbles

Its fresh fruit season here and I'm having fun in the kitchen.  These lovely 4 treats are a peach  melba crumble I came up with for  a whine and cheese party.  I used fresh peaches and raspberries as both are in season and cheap right now.

Skinning a peach isn't a problem First it has to be a ripe peach, one that smells intensely peachy and gives a little with a gentle squeeze.  You need a pot of boiling water and a bowl with ice water.  Simply drop a peach in the boiling water, turn it so it is evenly covered and boil for a minute and a half. Fish it out with a slotted spoon and slip it into the ice water for a couple of minutes.  The skin will simply slip right off.

Peach Melba Crumble

  • 4 large peaches skinned and sliced
  • 8 oz raspberries
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 3 T corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Crumble
  • 1 stick of butter - chilled and cubed
  • 3/4 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/3 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 sliced almonds

Toss the sliced peaches with raspberries brown sugar, corn starch, lemon zest, juice and pinch of salt.  Set aside.

In food processor with a dough blade combine rolled oats, flour, brown sugar and salt.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add chilled butter cubes and pulse several times until it resembles a crumbly dough. Toss in almonds with a fork.  Divide crumble into 2 portions.

Take 4, 12 oz ramekins and divide one half of the crumble equally into the bottom of each ramekin.  Tap lightly to compact.  Divide fruit mixture evenly between the 4 ramekins. Sprinkle the remaining crumble over the fruit.  

Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake in 400f oven 50-60 minutes until bubbly and topping is well browned.  Serve warm with whipped cream and raspberry sauce.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Death by Chocolate V2.o

This is a spin on Michael Symon's Death by Chocolate.  What makes it truly my own is adding a salty sweet pretzel base and crushed pretzels in the layering.  Its a salty chocolately crunchy sweet jumble in my version...just not all chocolate like his.  Of course, I use my own cooked from scratch pudding in this.

I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder for the intense chocolate flavor it brings to the table.  Ditto valrhona 70% unsweetened chocolate.  Its about intense chocolate balanced with salty crunchy pretzels.

Also to turn up the flavors a notch, I add a generous dollop of creme fraiche to the whipped cream layer.  This bit of tart tames down the sweetness of the cream, again all working towards balance in the final dessert.  Sour cream would sorta work as a substitute, but really creme fraiche is in stores all over now so spring for it instead.

Also, instead of layering it in a giant trifle bowl, I do it in ramekins.  This way I  have portion control and make certain everyone gets a nice bit with each spoonful.

Death by Chocolate V2.0
Pudding Layer

  • 2 c Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 c Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3 T corn starch
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 8 oz unsweetened chocolate - finely chopped

Whipped Cream layer

  • 2 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 c creme fraiche
  • 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 1 T pure vanilla

Pretzel layer

  • 2 c crushed pretzels
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • 1 T sugar

  • 1 C Heath Toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350F
Place 8, 8 oz ramekins on a baking sheet
Reserve 1/2 c crushed pretzels for layering later.
Place 1 1/2 c crushed pretzels, sugar and melted butter in a mixing bowl an toss until combined and resembles wet sand.  Divide pretzel mixture between the ramekins and press in lightly with fingers.  Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant.  Remove from oven and cool to room temperature

For the pudding layer, start by putting together the egg yolks and whole milk.  Whisk until smooth and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan whisk together salt,  sugar, cornstarch and Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa powder.  Add heavy cream and stir until ingredients are combined.  Stir and cook over medium until it comes to a boil and starts to froth.  It will coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Don't over cook.  Reduce heat. Slowly drizzle in 1 C of hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, taking care to whisk vigorously so the hot cream doesn't scramble the yolk mixture.  Slowly pour the tempered yolk mixture into the remaining hot cream, whisking constantly.  Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in finely chopped unsweetened chocolate until dissolved and smooth.  Whisk in vanilla.  Pour into heat proof bowl.  Place cling film over the hot pudding mixture to prevent skin from forming.  Chill several hours until set.

Chill your mixing bowl and beaters for about 30 minutes to ensure maximum fluffiness to the whipped cream layer.  Assemble mixer, pour in heavy cream and creme fraiche.  Whip on high until fluffy.  Sprinkle on confectioners sugar and vanilla.  Whip a minute or two longer until it forms soft careful not to overbeat and turn it to butter.

Sprinkle 1/3 c toffee bits evenly between the 8 ramekins. 

Divide pudding in half, and split  half of it evenly between the ramekins.  Divide whipped cream in half, split half of it evenly between the ramekins.  Top with 1/4 c crushed pretzels divided between the ramekins.  Top with 1/3 c toffee bits split among the 8 ramekins.  Repeat layering order with remaining pudding, whipped cream, crushed pretzels and toffee bits.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Chocolate Oreo Ice Cream

Back in the day the Oreo ice cream came in two flavors, vanilla and the chocolate that I adored.  Soon it was only vanilla in the stores and I was lost.  Floating in foodie limbo waiting its return.  Then I slapped myself awake and remembered I could make my own version.

So I set out to do just that.  I'm a big fan of dark chocolate over milk.  I used Hershey's Dark cocoa powder instead of the usual unsweetened cocoa powder.  The results were out right awesome.  This recipe is a keeper...and will have to be made often as everyone loves it around here.

I also toss in some real unsweetened chocolate just to ad some oooomph to the already chocolately goodness going on here.  I used a Valrhona 77% dark baking chocolate for max flavor and texture in the final product but even a 65-70% would be fine....I used what I had on hand.

This recipe is based on the capacity of a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  Ditto the time.  Adjust as needed for your own ice cream making machine.

Chocolate Oreo Ice Cream

  • 6 T Hersheys Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 c heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 sugar
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate - chopped
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 8 oreos coarse chopped

In a heavy sauce pan combine cocoa powder, heavy cream, salt and sugar.  Stir to combine over medium heat.  Slowly heat to boil.  Stir/whisk to prevent it from sticking to sides and bottom of pan.  Just as it comes to a boil it will foam.  Immediately turn off heat when it foams up.

Add chopped unsweetened chocolate.  Stir until melted into the ice cream base.  Stir in whole milk and vanilla.  Pour into large bowl, cover and chill several hours or over night.

Assemble ice cream maker per instructions.  Turn on machine and add the chilled  ice cream base.  Churn 25-30  minutes until it is the thick and nearly frozen.  Add chopped oreos and churn 1-2 minutes longer.  Serve immediately as a soft serve style, or scoop into a freezer container and freeze until firm.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shitake Mustard Green Frittata

I love me a frittata in the morning for brunch.  The kids, not so much so this is really a frittata for 2.  Add in a side of hash browns or toast and some juice and its a full meal.

I used curly mustard greens, rib removed and coarsely chopped.  Its got more of an earthy peppery bite to it so you if you don't like it, swap out baby spinach in the same quantity.  It seems like a lot of greens, and it will overwhelm the pan at first, but as they give up water and wilt, they will shrink considerably.

Different for me is this doesn't call for any additional salt.  Parmesan, the real deal you buy in wedges is a pretty salty cheese to start with so you can use it as your "salt" If on first bite you feel it isn't seasoned enough give it a little sprinkle of maldon sea salt if you must.

Shitake Mustard Green Fritatta

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T half and half
  • 1/4 c finely shredded mozzarella
  • 5 T grated Parmesan
  • 4 Shitake mushrooms - stems removed, sliced 
  • 2 c coarse chopped mustard greens ( or any other green you have around)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F

Over medium-high heat add 2 T olive oil to an 8" saute pan.  Stir fry the mushrooms and ground black pepper until browned, about 5-7 minutes  Add mustard greens and garlic.  Stir constantly until wilted and greens are reduced to 1/4 or less of original volume.

Whisk together eggs, half and half, mozzarella and 3 T Parmesan.  Reduce heat on pan to medium, add eggs.  Stir slowly until ingredients are well distributed and bottom has set, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and put in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and browned.  Garnish with additional 2 T Parmesan and serve hot.
There is flavor in the brown...don't skimp on browning your Shitake

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lemon Souffle'

I'm beginning to wonder what all the fuss about is with making Souffle'.  This version doesn't have a starch to bind and it still puffed up wonderfully.  Yes, it fell a bit after while cooling but it was still a wonderful puff of marshmallowy lemony goodness.

I cheated here and used a good store bought lemon curd.  Dundee brand if you can find it is the most amazing lemon pucker I've found yet.  Yes, you can fuss and make it at home, but why for the love of gawd when you can get good store bought would you do it?

I use Meyer Lemons, the virtues of which I've extolled in the past.  Suffice it to say its milder with a better flavor than the traditional lemons found in the groc at the corner.  Worth tracking down March-May when they are in season.

Tip: Zest lemon then juice it.  You will never zest a lemon that has been juiced first.

Lemon Souffle'

  • Good quality Lemon Curd
  • 1 large lemon - zested and juiced
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 5 T superfine sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 t cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350F

In a 10-12 oz ramekin spoon in 2 heaping tablespoons lemon curd, smooth and level in bottom of ramekin.

Whip egg whites and cream of tartar in copper bowl until soft peaks form.  Sprinkle over 1T superfine sugar.  Whip until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.

Combine egg yolks, sugar, salt, zest and juice.  Whisk until frothy and sugar is dissolved.  Stir in 1/4 of the whipped egg whites to lighten the yolks.  Pour yolk mixture into the egg whites and fold gently until well incorporated and few white streaks remain.

Place ramekins on baking sheet.  Divide souffle' batter evenly between the 3 ramekins.  Bake 17-18 minutes until puffed and golden brown on top.  Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Creme Puffs for my Pop

I'm not quite sure when my Mom made the switch to Creme Puffs for my Dad's Birthday, but I'm glad she did.  Its a little comforting tasty bit that always reminds me of him.  Today would have been his 83rd birthday and its appropriate I make them now.

There are many ways to fill them.  Traditional is to make a pastry creme, but sweetened whip cream works too.  Ditto cool whip if you're really lazy.

Baking them on a silpat baking sheet promises an easy release from the pan.  Nothing worse than a puff that scorches onto the baking sheet.  Silpat is the greatest invention of the last century.

Creme Puffs

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400F

Bring water, butter and salt to a boil.  Reduce heat and add flour all at once.  Stir vigorously until a ball forms.
Put dough ball in stand mixer on medium, or food processor with a dough blade installed.  Add eggs one at a time until smooth dough forms.

Line baking sheet with silpat.  Drop dough by 1/4 C full.  Bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from oven and move to a wire rack.  Cool completely.  Split and fill with pastry creme or sweetened whipped creme.

Pastry Creme

  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 C milk
  • 2 egg yolks.
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 T butter

Whisk together Milk, sugar, corn starch and salt.  Bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly  to prevent clumping.  Cook 1 minute until thick.

Whisk together yolks. Whisking vigorously slowly ladle in 1 c of the hot milk mixture into egg yolks.  Bring heat to medium-low.  Slowly pour the yolk mixture into the remaining hot milk.  Whisk constantly as it thickens and comes to a boil. Cook 1 minute.  Immediately remove from heat.  Whisk in vanilla.  Whisk in butter.  
Put into a heat proof container.  Float a piece of cling film over the hot mixture to prevent a skin from forming.  Cover and refrigerate until cool. 
 To prevent curdling and scrambling of the pastry creme mixture whisk constantly.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bulgur Wheat Salad

This Salad is fine as a meal by itself or as a side with grilled meats and fish. With the fresh chopped herbs it really packs a lot of flavor.  Its one of my fave for the former for a quick lunch.

Bulgur wheat is simply cracked wheat berries. It used to be a staple at the hippy stores, but I've  been finding it in mainstream grocs these days.  Yeah...and its cheaper that way too.  Nice complete grain and its easy to cook.  If you can do rice, you can do this.

I always have chicken stock on hand so this isn't entirely vegan, to make it that way simply use a good veggie stock.  As you don't know how much salt is in the stock, hold off salting the bulgur wheat until you taste it.

Bulgur Wheat Salad
  • 1 c bulgur wheat
  • 2 c veggie or chicken stock
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 c sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small zucchini quartered and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 3 T chopped cilantro
  • 3 T chopped mint
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 T olive oil

In small sauce pot bring stock to a boil.  Add bulgur wheat and reduce heat to low and simmer/steam 20 minutes. Remove from heat and lest stand 10 minutes covered.

Add mushrooms to a large non-stick fry pan with a tablespoon of oil.   Sautee over med/high heat until the mushrooms start to brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Add zucchini and cook 3-5 minutes until they start to brown.  Add onion and cook to translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Prepare dressing with lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, and black pepper.  In large salad bowl add bulgur wheat and fluff with a fork.  Pour over the veggie mixture and toss lightly to combine.  Pour over the salad dressing and toss to dress the salad.  Test of salt and add as needed.  Serve warm.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Slaw 2 ways...its how I gotta do it some days`

I have some picky eaters.  One likes only the traditional southern style slaw, the others like the Thai style.  Its easy enough to make both so I do.

To make life easier I take a small head of cabbage, quarter it then finely slice it all at once.  Voila...enough cabbage for 2 batches of slaw.  From there its about the dressing and that is just stupid easy.  

The traditional southern is what I learned back in "Men's Contemporary Living" back in high school for crying out loud.  The other is an adaptation of the one my cousin makes...Thai with the flavors amped up a bit.

Traditional Southern Cole Slaw
  • 4 c sliced cabbage
  • 2 T finely sliced onion
  • 1/2 c Miracle Whip
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T sugar
  • pinch salt
  • Pinch black pepper.

Whisk together the Miracle Whip, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add to sliced cabbage and onion.  Toss to coat.  Chill for at least an hour for the flavors to marry.

Thai Cole Slaw
  • 4 c sliced cabbage
  • 1/4 c thinly sliced onion
  • 1/4 c peanuts
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 c Miracle Whip
  • 2 T  rice wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 t curry powder
  • 1 t fish sauce
  • pinch salt

Combine Miracle Whip, vinegar, lime juice, curry powder, fish sauce and salt.  Whisk until smooth.  Pour over sliced cabbage, onion, cilantro and peanuts.  Toss to coat.  Chill for at least an hour for the flavors to marry.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tuna Tarragon Mac Salad

Today is classic May Gray, with wind warnings and red flag starting at 3PM.  What's that got to do with food?  Plenty.  The latter means its going to be extremely hot and dry for the next several days as it harkins the return of the Santa Ana winds.  Nothing is more refreshing than a cold salad on a hot miserable day and this fits the bill.

I use good canned in water tuna.  Simple honest tuna flavor with no added fat calories...the dressing will add plenty of that.

I use frozen peas as they are already blanched and are ready to go.  By all means since this is fresh pea season use them, just blanch in salted water and shock in ice water to keep them brilliant green.

I sprinkle the herbs onto the hot drained pasta as the residual heat and moisture will cause them to release their flavor oils and deep flavor the pasta.

Tuna Tarragon Mac Salad

  • 12 oz Shell shaped Pasta 
  • 1 T minced tarragon
  • 1 T minced parsley
  • 1 half small onion minced
  • 1 c sliced celery
  • 1/4 diced dill pickle
  • 2 cans tuna, drained.
  • 1 c frozen peas
  • 1 c Miracle Whip
  • 3 T dijon mustard
  • 2 T dill pickle juice
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t fresh ground pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions in well salted water.  Drain.  Pour pasta into mixing bowl and sprinkle with herbs.  Toss lightly.  Set aside while prepping veggies and pickles.

Put minced onion, sliced celery and dill pickle into bowl.  Flake tuna and sprinkle over the veggies.

Prepare dressing by whisking together Miracle Whip, mustard, pickle juice, salt and pepper.  Pour over the pasta and toss lightly until all are well distributed and coated with dressing.  Chill at least 3 hours in fridge before serving.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Coffee Brined Pork Loin Chops

What?  Coffee in a brine.  Absolutely.  It brings smokey bitter notes to a naturally sweet meat like pork.  Grill it over sweet mesquite and omg...its terrific.

The coffee you use will make a difference. I prefer bold roasts for the rounded bitterness.  A medium roast will work in a pinch.  Skip right over the light "breakfast blend" roasts as they are too light to work well with this brine.

Costco sells pork loins, whole strips about 2-3 feet long on the cheap.  This lack of butchering on their part is a bonus for me in that I can cut it into thick loin chops or modest sides loin roasts.  All at a fraction of the cost the local groc charges.  Wrap it up in good freezer paper and its good to go for a couple of months before use.

I use the Thai red chili in this.  I like the heat and flavor.  If you can find it your groc is challenged and you need to tell them to get on the ball and stock them.  If that doesn't work you can substitute a red jalapeno pepper.

Coffee Brined Pork Loin Chops

  • 4 large 1 1/2" thick pork loin chops
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 heaping T coffee
  • 1" piece of ginger sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic - smashed
  • 2 Thai red chili - sliced horizontally
  • 1 T dried thyme 
  • 1 t kosher salt

In sauce pot add ginger and coffee grounds.  Bring to a boil.  Then remove from heat and cover, let steep for 5-10 minutes.  Strain the mixture tossing coffee grounds but reserving the ginger slices.  Add smashed garlic, sliced Thai chili , salt and thyme.  Put the pork loin chops into a large food storage bag, pour in coffee mixture with the veggies and herbs.  Seal bag, place in a large bowl to catch potential leaks, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

1 hour prior to grilling pull the pork loin chops from the fridge and allow it to sit on counter to come to room temperature.  This ensures even cooking.  Remove chops from bag, pat dry with towel and grill 5-6 minutes per side until cooked through. (FDA recommends 165f, I' go with 150 so its still juicy but no longer pink).

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Orange Sriracha glazed salmon and Herbed Bulgar Wheat

This is stupid easy and fast.  Can you boil water?  If so the bulgar wheat is done.  Can you turn on a burner under a grill pan?  Bang...your done.

Seriouisly, some nights no one has time to fuzz and fiddle in the kitchen.  Tonight was one such night.  Busy baby sitting the grand meant little time in the kitchen.  Timing is everything so start the Herbed Bulgar wheat first, then move to the salmon.  This dinner is fast..on the table in 20 minutes.

Herbed Bulgar Wheat

  • 1 c bulgar wheat
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 2 T dried onion
  • 1 T chopped cilantro
  • 1 T chopped parsley

Bring chick broth and dried onion to a boil.  Remove from heat and add bulgar wheat and herbs. Stir.  Cover.  Let sit 15 minutes.  At end of the cooking time remove lid and fluff with a fork.

Orange Sriracha Glazed Salmon

Heat a non stick grill pan over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the salmon filets generously on both sides.  When grill pan is hot, spritz with non stick cooking spray and put salmon down.  Cook 4-5 minutes until the side is opaque about half way up the side of the salmon filet.  Flip over, reduce heat to medium.  Divide Orange Sriracha sauce and spread on the cooked side of the filets.  Cook 3-4 minutes longer until opaqueness meets in the middle.  Turn off heat and remove from pan, let rest 3 minutes and serve over Herbed Bulgar Wheat.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Orange Sriracha Glaze and when to tamper a bit

Sometimes I get a recipe and do it as is and its perfect. Other times it needs a tweak or two.  The Orange Sriracha Glaze fell into the latter category.  I used substitutes that the originator suggested as frankly I was too lazy to track down one of those hippy health food stores for "coconut amino's" and coconut oil.  Not that I'm against hippy food, I do plenty, its just buying stuff for a couple of dabs in a glaze just didn't make economic sense.

Once the basic sauce was done, blew my socks off.  The Sriracha was intense and the orange notes were just not coming through.  It also was just a tidge watery.  Depth of flavor was called for and I amped up that with two additional Asian flavors, oyster sauce and hoison sauce. In that vein I also added 1 T orange zest.  Et thickened nicely, and more importantly was balanced allowing the Sriracha to still be a player, but not over power the citrus notes of the orange.  Also the original recipe called for toasted sesame seeds...gross I don't trust anything that looks the same going in as it does on exit...the oil packs more flavor with no funny gritty bits.
And...while we are at it, don't get me wrong, I love my Calphalon, but sometimes you need a non-reactive pan like stainless steel. Really love my stainless lined copper for those acidic reductions that need to be untainted with the flavor of aluminum. This sauce needs a long slow simmer to reduce it to the consistency of a glaze and I fear the amount of acid in it would create an off flavor if I didn't use the non-reactive pan.

Orange Sriracha Glaze

  • 1 c fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 T Sriracha sauce
  • 4 T honey
  • 2 T low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 T orange zest
  • 1 T Oyster sauce
  • 1 T Hoison Sauce
  • 1 t sesame oil

Strain out the pulp from the orange juice and measure 1 cup.  (About 3 large navel oranges).  Add to non-reactive heavy bottom sauce pan.  Add Sriracha, honey, soy sauce, orange zest, oyster sauce, hoison sauce, and sesame oil.  Over medium low heat stir just softly to combine ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer on low heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup liquid, about 30 minutes. Test for seasoning and add a pinch or two of sea salt if needed.  Cool and store covered in a glass jar.

Spicy Orange Sriracha Chicken

  • 1 lb chicken 
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 T low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 Medium onion cubed
  • 1 medium red bell pepper cubed
  • 3 T peanuts
  • 2 t sesame oil
  • 12 oz Udon noodles.
  • 1/4 c Orange Sriracha Glaze

Dice chicken into a 1/2" dice.  Chop garlic and toss with chicken.  Sprinkle on the soy sauce.  Cover and marinate at least an hour, up to 4 hours in fridge.
Add Udon noodles to boiling water to warm and separate into strands.  Drain and toss with a sesame oil and set aside. 
Cube bell pepper and onion.  Heat wok with a couple of tablespoons vegetable oil until shimmering.  Add bell pepper and onion.  Stir fry a minute or two.  Add marinated chicken and stir fry until cooked through, tossing often.  Add peanuts ans stir fry one minute.  Reduce heat and add Orange Sriracha glaze.  Toss to coat.  Add Udon noodles and toss to coat and heat through, about 2 minutes.  Serve hot.

Special Thanks for the original glaze recipe to "Robb Graves" who created it and "Rusty Trombone" who passed it along to me.  Good stuff there Maynard.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Harissa Lemon Shrimp

I'm a fan of spicy food. I'm a fan of trying new stuff. This was a home run without trying.

Harissa Mina is a wonderfully spicy Moroccan chili, pepper and spice blend. I've seen it used a lot of times on the Food Network as an ingredient in marinades or as a condiment.  I used it in the former for this recipe.

Harissa Lemon Shrimp

  • 2 lbs 16/20 Shrimp, peeled and deviened
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 c Harissa
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 T dried Thyme

Clean shrimp and arrange on skewers.  Lay in in non reactive dish.

Combine lemon juice, zest, Harissa and oilve oil.  Pour over shrimp.  Turn to coat evenly.  Marinate for 30 minutes.

Grill over gas or charcoal grill on medium high heat.  Place shrimp skewers on grill.  Grill 2-3 minutes, turn over and grill additional 2-3 minutes until bright pink and opaque through out.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lemon Coconut Cake

This is the end result of a whim and a brain storm.  Getting together with my cousins tonight for wine and cheese and  Paul suggested something lemon, lemon cake. First thought was hmmm...lemon pound cake, but then I remembered he and my wife adore the lemon cake at Cafe Opera here in town.  I knew I had a germ of an idea.

Of course I use Meyer lemons.  They have a sweeter, less harsh juice and zest than the ponderosa's that are available pretty much all year round in stores.  Seek out the Meyer Lemons as they are in season now and really make the difference in the final product.  Honestly, I won't use the regular groc lemon and get mine off the tree in my yard.  Its my California trip....fresh home grown citrus, indulge me.

To execute you must have a good micro plane grater.  It does a superb job of removing zest and leaving the bitter pith behind.  It also has it in small enough flecks that its not obnoxious in the final dish.

There are 4 simple steps in making this cake.  Lemon cake, Lemon curd, candied lemon slices and Lemon frosting, in that order.

Lemon Coconut Cake
1 stick butter room temperature
1 c sugar
2 T sugar
1/4 t cream of tartar
2 t Baking Powder
1/2 salt
4 room temperature eggs - separated
1 lemon zested then juiced
2 C flour
1/3 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325F  Grease and flour 2 9inch cake pans with parchment paper on the bottom.
Cream together 1 c sugar with butter.  Add eggs one at time.  Beat until well blended.  Add lemon juice and zest.  Beat in well.  Add flour and buttermilk and beat well.

Beat egg whites with cream of tartar on low until frothy.  Increase speed and beat on high slowly sprinkling on 2 T of sugar until stiff peaks form.

Take one quarter of the egg whites and stir into the yolk mixture to lighten in it.  Pour lightened yolks into the bowl with remaining whites and fold in until well incorporated.  Don't  over fold as you will deflate eggs.

Bake 23-27 minutes in center of oven until baked through and tester comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks 10 minutes.  Then remove from pan, pealing off parchment paper and cool completely on the racks.

Lemon Curd
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c butter 
3 lemons, zested and juiced

Place the ingredients in the double boiler over boiling water. Don't let top pan touch the water. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Float a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the curd so it doesn't form a skin while cooling.

Lemon slice garnish
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
1 lemon sliced, seeds and ends discarded.
Slice lemons into 1/4 inch thick slices.  In a non-reactive sauce pan mix sugar and water and bring to boil over medium heat.  Add lemon slices and reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 1 hour.  Sprinkle some sugar on a plate.  Gently remove lemon slices with a slotted spoon and set onto sugar.  Cool to room temp.

Lemon Frosting
3 c powdered sugar
3 T softened butter
1 lemon juiced and zested
1/2 t vanilla
1 heaping cup sweetened shredded coconut
yellow food coloring - optional

Cream together sugar, butter and lemon juice.  Add vanilla and zest.  Thin with water if needed to get to spreading consistency.  Beat in a couple of drops of food coloring if using.  

To assemble.  On a cake plate put a dab of frosting in center to hold cake in place.  Split first layer in half horizontally.  Place bottom of cake onto the cake plate.  Spread with 1/3 of the lemon curd.  Place top of the layer onto the cake. Spread on 1/3 of the lemon curd. 
Split the last layer in half horizontally.  Place bottom on top of the cake on the cake plate.  Spread on remaining 1/3 of lemon curd.  Place top of layer onto the cake.

Frost with Lemon Frosting.  Sprinkle and lightly press the coconut into the frosted cake.  Garnish top of cake with the candied lemon slices.
Simmer Lemon slices over low heat to candy them, take care to not turn it to caramel.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Smoked Gruyere Souffle

I outdid myself with this one.  The perfect souffle - touch of smokey flavor, hint of onion and thyme.  A sprinkling of crunchy Maldon sea salt flakes to finish it.  Yum.

Smoked Gruyere Souffle

  • 2/3 c grated smoked Gruyere cheese
  • 3 egg yolks - room temperature
  • 4 egg whites - room temperature
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 T water
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 3 scrapes nutmeg
  • 1 t fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t cream of tartar
  • maldon sea salt flakes

Preheat oven to 475F
butter and flour souffle dish
Warm milk and thyme leaves over low heat until bubbles start to form at the edge of the pot.

Whisk together salt, egg yolks, flour and water until smooth.  Dribble in 1/4 c warm milk mixture into eggs whisking constantly to combine.  Heat milk over medium low flame.  While whisking constantly slowly pour in the yolk mixture. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and a few large bubble erupt.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in cheese, mustard, nutmeg and pepper until smooth.

Whip egg whites and cream of tartar on low until foamy.  Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form.

Whisk in one quarter of the whipped egg whites into the souffle yolk base until smooth.  Pour based over remaining egg whites and fold gently until uniform and smooth.  Pour into prepared souffle dish.

Put in hot oven and bake 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to 425F and bake another 10-12 minutes until risen and dark golden brown. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt flakes.
Vigorously whisk the egg milk mixture to prevent scrambling and ensure a smooth even souffle base.
A copper bowl ensures egg whites whip to maximum height.
Resist temptation to open door and peak at baking souffle, opening the door releases heat and your souffle will likely fall.  (Pic through window on oven door).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Crispy Mustard Roasted Chicken - not my recipe but tasty still

OK, Ina Garten better known as the Barefoot Contessa is one of my favorite cooks on TV.  This recipe took a few tweaks to make it really move from good to incredible.  The recipe is Crispy Mustard Roasted Chicken and it really is quite tasty.

There are two hints to make it better.  First is take it easy with the salt, the breading calls for 2 T salt.  I was leary of that much, but followed the recipe as directed.  Way too salty. Second iteration I cut it back to 1/2 teaspoon and the results were perfect.

The other hint is that as this is't fried but is baked using the convection bake cycle on your oven yields a much crispier crunchy topping that is well browned.

Overall I give this recipe 4 out of 5 possible starts.  Why only 4?  Well the adults in the house loved it and raved about it.  The kids, not so much.  I'll reserve this for dinner parties with adults as it really is quite tasty.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pork Potstickers - with a Thai bent

This is such an easy recipe.  Rather than try to mince so much of it by it all through a meat grinder with the fine grind disk and you are done pronto.  Either the grinder that attaches to your stand mixer or a hand operated works fine.  It yields the perfect texture.

Not quite sure where this Thai bent has come from...but I do like the Thai flavors as they have a pretty awesome blend of sweet-savory-hot-acid going that just dances in your mouth.  A happy dance if you will.

This recipe is also an example of how to repurpose a left over rather than just reheat as is the next day.  For this I used the Thai Pork Roast from the other day, but you can use any other chunk of left over cooked pork roast just as easily.

Of course I a better flavor maker than a dough maker.  I pick up a package of potsticker wrappers already made at the local Asian market.  Voila for a buck forty nine I'm in business and no aggravated swearing as I can't get the dough right.
The last tip I offer up is that I use a non-stick skillet.  Makes it easier to release the dumplings when they are seared on one side without tearing them up in the process of flipping to brown the other side.  A good, heavy non-stick skillet with a lid can be had for under $50 and worth the investment.

Pork Potstickers

  • 1 lb left over cooked pork roast
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1" finger of ginger
  • 1/2 c loose packed cilantro leaves and stems
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced
  • 1 T lemongrass puree
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame oil

Assemble meat grinder according to your manufacturers instructions.  Cut pork into chunks that will fit into the feed tube.  Place ginger, garlic and cilantro into feed tube and top with some of the pork.  Grind through fine disc.  Repeat with remainging pork until it is all ground.

Mix together lemongrass puree, fish and soy sauce with the sesame oil.  Pour over the ground meat mixture.  Add thinkly sliced green onions.  Toss with fork until all ingredients well blended.

In palm of hand place 1 potsticker wrapper.  Weet edges with water.  Place scant tablepoon of filling into center of wrapper.  Fold edges over and  press to seal the edges.  Place on tray and cover with plastic wrap so they don't dry out while assembling the rest of them.  (This makes about 4 dozen pot stickers).

In non-stick skillet over medium heat spray with cooking oil.  Arrange potstickers in pan so edges don't touch.  Add 1/3 c water and cover.  Steam 5-7 minutes until water just about evaporated.  Remove cover, drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons sesame oil and turn the potstickers over and brown on other side.  Repeat until all pot stickers are cooked.
Potsticker wrapper with edges wet ready for filling
filling placed in wrapper ready to fold and seal edges
Assembled potstickers waiting cooking
Potstickers steamed and one side seared ready to turn over

Add bonus...pays to scroll to the end.  Half the fun of potstickers is dipping them in a flavorful dipping sauce.  Here's my go to recipe for potstickers...doesn't matter what kind, its still uber delicious.

Dipping Sauce
  • 1/2 C orange marmalade
  • 1/2 c reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1  clove garlic
  • 1/2" finger of ginger
  • 1 t red pepper flakes

Place marmalade and soy sauce in small sauce pan over low heat.  Using a microplane grate in the ginger and garlic.  Add pepper flakes.  Stir until marmalade melts and its all combined. Cool to room temp.  Store leftovers in fridge for up to a week.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thai Pork Roast...take 2 the spicy version

I've done a similar version of this roast, and posted it here.  I amped up the flavor this time by marinading it then roasting with more Thai Red Chili's.  Right tasty stuff that the whole family ate and requested I do again.  Soon.

What makes it Thai? Well inclusion of Thai red chili's for one.  Lemon grass, cilantro and fish sauce also add to the Thai flavor profile.  The clincher however is the can of coconut milk.  All combined its that salty sweet spicy profile that the Thais are known for.

As you are using coconut milk line your baking dish with foil.  It cooks down to a thick paste that is nearly impossible to chip off when done.  Seriously. line it with foil and forget about it.  Easier to dispose of a wad of foil than cleaning off baked on coconut milk.

Thai Pork Roast

  • 3 lb pork loin roast
  • 1/3 c soy sauce
  • 1 T fish Sauce
  • 1 T Lemon grass puree
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 10 Thai red chili
  • 1 can coconut milk

Night before you want to roast off the meat take your pork roast and put it into a ziplock gallon sized food bag. Combine 1/4 c minced cilantro, soy sauce, fish sauce and garlic.  Pour over the pork roast, massage into the meat.  Seal bag and refrigerate, turning occasionally to ensure good even contact of marinade with the meat.

1/2 hour prior to baking preheat oven to 350F and pull meat out of fridge and set on counter to room up to room temp for more even roasting.  Line baking dish with foil.  

Chop 7 Thai red chilies. Mince 1/2 c cilantro.  Sprinkle evenly over the bottom of the foil lined baking dish.  Remove pork roast from ziplock bag and toss out excess marinade.  Place pork on top of the bed of chopped chili and cilantro.  Shake can of coconut milk well.  Pour over the pork roast.

Sprinkle 1/4 c chopped cilantro over the top of the pork roast.  Take remaining 3 chilies and remove stem, slice lengthwise.  Place slice chili half, cut side down on top of pork roast.  Arrange so they are evenly spaced.

Roast until meat thermometer or oven probe reaches 150F (about 1 hour).  Pull from oven and let rest 15 minutes before carving and serving.
Pork Roast all set for the oven

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls

My grandmother was an incredible baker.  These cinnamon caramel rolls were one of her staples.  Rarely did she not make bread and do a batch of these too at the same time. They were a staple at Vertin's cafe in Ely, Minnesota where she worked as well.  What's not to love...cinnamon, rich yeasty bread and caramel!

I use the larger Pyrex pan, a 10X15 instead of the more standard 9X3 as this is a big batch, 2 dozen rolls.

My Mom makes them with chopped walnuts in the caramel.  That's really tasty too, but the clowns  kids in my house can't stand nuts in their rolls so I omit.  By all means feel free to add in a 1/2 chopped walnuts into the caramel if you want an extra treat to your rolls.

I make these doing the second rise overnight in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap.  I remove from fridge to warm up while preheating the oven and remove the plastic wrap and bake so I have fresh from the oven cinnamon caramel rolls for breakfast.  You can of course do the second rise, about 1-2 hours 

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T dry active yeast
  • 1 stick (1/2 c) melted butter
  • 4 1/2 - 5 1/2 C flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Filling
  • 1/4 c melted butter
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • Caramel
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 C) butter
  • 1 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 T dark brown corn syrup
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts - optional

Scald milk and cool to 105f.  Stir in yeast and 2T sugar.  Set aside until foamy - about 5 minutes.

In stand mixer add 2C flour, melted butter, eggs, salt and yeast mixture.  Beat 1-2 minutes until flour incorporated with the paddle attachment.  Scrape dough off of paddle and switch to dough hook.  On low speed add flour 1/2c at a time until you get a shiny dough that is no longer sticky.  (I usually use about 5 cups flour but that change with humidity of the air).  Knead on low for 5 minutes.  Turn into a greased bowl, cover with tea towel and set aside in warm place for 2-3 hours until doubled in size.

When doubled in size get out a large bread board.  four board liberally and roll dough to about a 18" by 24" rectangle about 1/8-1/4" thick.  Brush dough evenly with 1/4 c melted butter.  Sprinkle on brown sugar.  Liberally or scantily sprinkle on cinnamon to taste.  Roll up jelly roll style starting with the long edge. Cut into 1 inch slices across the rolled dough which will give you 24 rolls.

Melt butter in a sauce pan over low heat.  Add brown sugar and corn syrup until dissolved and small bubbles start to appear on the side of the pan.  Pour the caramel into the baking dish.  Sprinkle on chopped walnuts if using.  Let cool 5 minutes.

Add the cinnamon rolls cut side down onto the caramel sauce.  For here you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night or cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours if you opt to bake immediately.  If doing overnight method remove from fridge and take off the plastic wrap and let it warm up 30 minutes before baking.

Bake in preheated 350F oven 30-40 minutes until the rolls are golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool 5  minutes on a wire rack.  Take a sheet of foil and put over the hot pan.  Place a serving tray over the foil.  Carefully, but quickly with oven mitts grab the serving tray and baking dish and invert.  Be careful not to spill hot caramel onto you.  Remove baking dish when inverted. Spoon up any residual caramel and spread on the rolls.  Allow 10 minutes additional cooling before eating.

Dough rolled out with butter and brown sugar spread on it...waiting for the coating of cinnamon.

Cinnamon rolls risen and doubled in size ready for baking.
Cinnamon rolls baked to golden brown and ready for inverting.

Thin Mint Chocolate Cheesecake - decadence defined

There are a few different versions of this cheesecake floating around.  This one is decadence defined.  Super rich and chocolaty, its not for the feint of heart and will power.

A couple of things I've learned over the years...addition of a starch, even a couple of tablespoons of corn starch will stabilize the egg cheese mixture so it won't crack on baking.  In this case the starch comes from the cocoa powder.  It works, don't knock success.

On the topic cocoa powder, I've talked about it before here, but the Black Onyx cocoa powder is my favorite...its a much more intense chocolate flavor.  Sorta the difference between milk chocolate and bittersweet.  It is a dryer product and this recipe takes that into consideration.  Really, either get this cocoa powder online or run to Surfas in Culver City.  It makes all the difference in the intensity of the chocolate flavor.  And quite frankly subbing out regular cocoa powder you are doing yourself a disservice.

I set my cream cheese out overnight to soften to room temperature.  You have to do this as you'll never cream the cheese and sugar to the right consistency if you don't and you pretty much guarantee a flop in the kitchen.

Thin Mint Chocolate Cheesecake

  • 1 box Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies
  • 7 T butter, melted
  • 12 ounces bittersweet (60%+) chocolate
  • 3 boxes cream cheese
  • 1 C Sour cream (full fat, not light)
  • 1 3/4 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C Black Onyx cocoa powder
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 t peppermint extract
  • 1 t coffee extract ( I use Kona from Surfas)
  • 1/4 t sea salt

Preheat oven to 325F

Hand crush thin mint cookies into a food processor.  Pulse until crumbly.  Add butter and pulse until wet and it looks like coarse sand.  Press into 10" cheesecake pan bottom and about 1" up the sides.  Set aside.

Melt chocolate over double boiler, stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and let cool.

In a stand mixer cream together cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, sea salt and extracts.  Beat until creamy and fluffy.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time until well incorporated.  
Reduce speed and stir in cocoa powder and heavy cream until uniform in color.  Slowly pour in melted chocolate and stir until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Place pan on a baking sheet.  Bake in center of oven for about 1 hour.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes.  Remove side of pan and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in refrigerator 4 hours or overnight.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mascarpone Pot au Creme

This version won the exclamation "you've out done yourself".  It was really quite tasty if I say so myself.  The addition of mascarpone to the mix really changed the texture, thicker and richer than the made from  milk and cream only version.  Of course I gilded the lily with fresh whipped sweetened cream, caramel sauce and some mini chocolate chips for added texture and flavor.  I was quite pleased.

How this came about was a simple brain storm and text message convo with my cousin Jill.  I asked what we could bring to a wine and cheese evening they were planning.  She said dessert and I asked, "chocolatey, fruity, or ooey gooey.  She suggested "chocolatey or gooey".  I thought for a second and decided to do both.

This does need to be cooked in a water bath or "bain marie" as they say en francais.  Simple procedure.  Place the filled ramekins in large roasting pan and fill the pan with hot tap water until the water goes up halfway the sides of the ramekins.  The only caution is you do need to pour slowly so you don't accidentally get some water into the batter and ruin it.

I'm a fan of the Cointreau.  That orangey liqueur plays well with chocolate and adds a wonderful layer of flavor in the background that just makes the chocolate more intense.  I always have on hand as its simply a key ingredient to a kick ass margarita.  If you don't have it,  any other orange flavored liqueurs would work.

Mascarpone Pot au Creme

  • 4 oz bitter chocolate - 60% plus cocoa 
  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 8 oz mascarpone, room temperature
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 T Cointreau
  • 2/3 c chilled whipping cream
  • 3 T confectioners sugar.
  • 1/4 t vanilla
  • mini chocolate chips
  • 6 T Salted Caramel Sauce

Preheat oven to 325F

Coarse chop the bitter chocolate and put into a microwave safe bowl.  Pour heavy cream over the chocolate.  Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes.  Check temp, if warm to touch stir chocolate until smooth.  If not warm, microwave additional  15 seconds and test again.  Let smooth chocolate mixture cool to room temperature.

In stand mixer place sugar, 1 t vanilla extract, Cointreau and room temperature mascarpone.  Whip until smooth and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.  Whisk in eggs one at a time until well incorporated.  Reduce speed and slowly whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture.

Divide batter between 6 ramekins (about 2/3 c each).  Place filled ramekins in a roasting pan.  Fill with hot tap water until it is about half way up the sides of the ramekins.  Pour slowly so you don't splash water into the batter filled ramekins.  Cover roaster with foil.  Bake in the preheated oven 40-45 minutes until set.

Remove from oven and take ramekins out of the water bath.  Cool  on wire racks until room temperature.  Cover cooled ramekins with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or over night.

When ready to serve whip chilled cream with confectioners sugar and vanilla.   Divide among the ramekins.  Spoon drizzle 1 T salted caramel sauce over each dollop of whipped cream.  Sprinkle scant Tablespoon mini chocolate chips over the salted caramel sauce. 
The pot au creme will be soft out of the oven but set firm on chilling.
Chilled pot au creme all garnished and ready to serve.