Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baby Shower!

My friend Sarah and I threw a baby shower for one of our friends.  She hosted it, so I said I would make the cupcakes.  Of course, at this point, I had never made (from scratch) cupcakes before.  This may be a little confusing since I recently posted a cupcake recipe.  This is why I wanted to post things in order!
But anyway, I had only made muffins, so I had to search for a really good cupcake recipe.  I found a delicious sounding recipe for Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting, and decided to go with that.  The end result was really good.  I used green food coloring for the frosting, since my friend is using a green theme for her baby boy.
After they baked, I was a little concerned.  The tops of the cupcakes started to get crusty and caramelized, and tunnel-like holes formed.  The inside was still pretty gooey.  I didn't want them to get too dry, so I took them out while still a little wet.  I figured that any imperfections could be covered by the frosting.  They still tasted great!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting (from How Sweet It Is)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 lb powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350 F.
For cupcakes: cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Add in vanilla and vanilla seeds.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Fold in half the dry ingredients to the wet, just until combined.  Mix in the milk, then add in the other half of the dry ingredients.  Pour into cupcake tins (line with paper liners, if desired), and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool.

For frosting: beat butter until smooth.  Add in powdered sugar and beat until fluffy.  Gradually add milk, vanilla and vanilla beans, until at desired consistency.  Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Now that I have a pizza stone (not sure if I mentioned this, but I bought one!), I can make the bread and follow the directions exactly.  I've already posted the instructions, so this time I just want to post the beautiful pictures of my beautiful bread.

A birthday galette

For a friend's birthday last month, I decided to make one of her favorite desserts.  In July of 09, I made a peach and blueberry galette that she practically swooned over.  I knew this would be the perfect thing to make for her.   I think the best part about this recipe is the crust.  It's so flavorful and has great texture.  My only issue - the filling always leaks out!  I've made this three times now, and it has happened every time.  I keep on saying that next time I'll bake it in a pie plate, so any leakage will stay in the dish.  Maybe next time I'll actually do this.
This time I did half blueberries and half raspberries - I used berries I had picked and frozen, and didn't thaw before using.  The second time I made this I used apples and fresh cranberries.  You can really use any fruit, so it's adaptable to any season.  Make this pie!

Recipe: Peach and Blueberry Galette (from Food Blogga)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup coarse cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup low fat buttermilk

2 1/2 cups blueberries
3 cups thinly sliced peaches (don't need to peel)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp minced ginger
4 tbsp cornstarch

1 egg white
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp raw sugar

For the crust: combine flour, sugar, cornmeal and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times.  Add the butter and pulse until it resembles coarse meal and the butter is in pea sized bits.  With the processor running, slowly pour the buttermilk through the chute.  Process until the dough forms a ball.  Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
For the filling, toss all ingredients in a large bowl and make sure the cornmeal coats the fruit well.
Take the dough out of the fridge, and put on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Roll the dough out to a 14-15 inch wide circle.  Put the dough, with the parchment paper, on a baking sheet.
Spread the fruit on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border.  Fold the border over the filling, overlapping as you fold.
Mix the egg white and milk, and brush on top of the crust.  Sprinkle the raw sugar over the crust and filling.

Bake for ~1 hour, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.
Cool for at least 20 minutes, and then enjoy!
See - filling all over the place!

Delicious, flaky crust

Easier isn't always better

I have a bunch of goat cheese I need to use up, and I thought that a creamy sandwich spread would be delicious.  Only problem - no bread.  So I looked to see if I had any simple recipes, and found one that was perfect.  Very few ingredients, it only makes one loaf, and no kneading required.  I wanted a lighter wheat bread, so I did a 1:2 ratio of wheat to all purpose flour, instead of the 2:1 ratio in the original recipe.  The recipe said to cover the loaf pan with a floured tea cloth during the second rise - since I let mine rise in the oven with the oven light on, I didn't cover it at all.

So this is the good.  The bad....
Well this didn't turn out at all how I thought it would.  I should have been worried after the second rise - the dough rose so high above the top of the pan that I thought it was going to collapse onto itself.  After 10 minutes of baking, some of it had actually dripped down onto the bottom of the oven.  Thank goodness I caught it before anything started burning.  After less than 20 minutes, the top of the bread was completely brown and hard, so I took it out.  I let it cool on a wire rack, in the pan for a while, and then took it out.  The bottom of the loaf was soggy and spongy.  I'm thinking I'm going to have to toss it.

All in all - this sounds like a great loaf of bread, but unfortunately didn't work out for me.  I don't know if I didn't add enough flour, if it rose too much before baking, if it needed to be baked at a lower temperature, or what!  I'm including the recipe anyway in case someone is brave enough to try and see if this works for them.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (from One Perfect Bite)
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp molasses
2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour, divided
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast and molasses.  Let sit for ~ 5 minutes, until foamy.  Add 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, butter and salt; mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add remaining flour, and mix just until combined.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and sit in a warm spot ~ 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Pour into a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Cover with a flour-coated tea towel and let rise in a warm spot, or until it fills the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes.  Cool in pan, and then cool completely on a wire rack.

Cooking while fasting - genius idea or huge mistake?

This past Yom Kippur, I had a few friends over to break the fast.  For those of you who don't know, Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday that is 10 days after the Jewish New Year.  It's the "Day of Atonement," when you're supposed to repent for all of your sins of the past year, and then you start the new year with a fresh slate.  You're supposed to fast to help clear your mind and focus.  And then you get together with your friends and stuff your face :)
I probably technically could have made some of the food in advance, but I wanted everything to be fresh.  Which means that I made most of the food while fasting.  For someone who tastes as she cooks, this was extremely difficult!  Not only did it make me really hungry, but I couldn't check to make sure everything tasted okay.
For some reason, the food at break the fast parties resembles breakfast or brunch food.  There is usually an assortment of bagels, with cream cheese, lox and other toppings.  So I made homemade bagels, and had my friend bring cream cheese and lox.
Kugel is an essential Jewish food.  It's kind of like a bread pudding, but with egg noodles.  The custard is a combination of eggs, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese and cream cheese.  I added in apples and raisins.
Even though kugel is almost a dessert, I needed a real dessert.  I had some leftover buttermilk from a pie (post coming soon), so I used it to make buttermilk chocolate cupcakes.  They were so good!  Not too unhealthy, but really decadent-tasting.  I paired them with a coconut cream cheese frosting - not too sweet, and completely delicious.
So what do you think?  Is it horribly cruel to cook when you can't eat, or is it a great idea to have a ton of food ready for when you can eat?

Kugel with Apples and Raisins:
4 oz cream cheese, 1/3 less fat (at room temperature)
6 oz unsalted butter, melted
8 oz cottage cheese, reduced fat
1/2 cup sugar
6 eggs

1 pint sour cream, reduced fat
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb medium egg noodles
2 apples, thinly sliced
1/2 cup raisins
cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine the cream cheese, butter, cottage cheese and sugar and beat until smooth.  Add the eggs and beat in, one at a time.  Mix in the sour cream and vanilla and set aside.
Parboil the apples ~2 minutes, until tender.  Drain and set aside.
Cook the egg noodles in boiling water ~6 minutes, until al dente.  Drain, and mix with the creamed mixture.  Add the apples and raisins, toss until mixed well.

Pour into a 9x13 pan, and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.  Bake 45 minutes-1 hour, or until the custard is set.  If starting to brown too much, cover with foil.

Let sit ~30 minutes before serving.  Enjoy warm or at room temperature (with a freshly baked bagel).

Recipe: Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes (from Picky Eatings)
3/4 cup dutch processes cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a standard cupcake tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Add eggs, water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla, and beat until smooth.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake liners.  You may have a little extra batter.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is springy, about 20 minutes.  Put on a cooling rack, and then frost once at room temperature.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, divided

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add in the powdered sugar.  Beat until smooth.  Fold in the extracts and some of the coconut.

Smooth on top of the cooled cupcakes, and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

A Perfect Fall Meal

I have also started having dinner dates with my friend Sarah.  We wanted to make something weather appropriate, so soup seemed like a perfect choice.  She mentioned that she likes Panera's Broccoli and Cheddar soup, so our plan was to try to recreate that.  For dessert, we wanted to use the apples we had just picked from Carter Mountain Orchard.  One of my friends recently made a pumpkin cheesecake that I can't stop thinking about, so we decided to make a cheesecake with apples, but in a bar form.  Like with my dinner date with Jess, we had to make the dessert before making the dinner, since cheesecake needs to be chilled before enjoying.
This dinner was delicious.  We made a TON of soup.  We actually had some concerns halfway through that everything might not fit into her 6 quart soup pot.  Don't worry, we made it all fit :)
We noticed that the soup actually had more of an onion taste than a cheese taste.  I think that next time, I might cook the onions separately.  They were in the soup base the entire time, so it makes sense that it transferred a lot of flavor to it.  I think I would be afraid to add much more cheese - it already had a ton in it!

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup (for an army)
1/2 cup butter
1 medium-large red onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
3 cups reduced sodium vegetable stock
24 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (we used a combination of yellow and white)
2 medium-large carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped in 1/2-1 inch cubes
2 bunches of broccoli, florets cut up
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom

In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Add the flour, and stir well to incorporate.  Cook for a few minutes, then slowly add the milk while stirring.  Once incorporated, add the vegetable stock.  Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then add in the cheese, stirring until melted.

While making the base, cook all of the vegetables.  You can either do this in separate pots, or use one pot at a time.  The potatoes and carrots will take the longest time - cook in boiling water until fork tender.  The broccoli will only take a few minutes, remove from water when bright green and crisp-tender.

When the cheese has melted, add in the potatoes, mashing them slightly to thicken the soup.  Then add in the carrots and broccoli.

Using an immersion blender, blend to desired consistency.  Add s&p to taste.
I love the green and orange flecks from the blended veggies!

Apple Pie Cheesecake Bars
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 packages room temp cream cheese (we used 2 packages 1/3 less fat, and 1 package regular)
3 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 F.
For the crust: Mix the flour, graham crumbs, sugar and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives.  Use your fingers to mix together until large clumps form.  Pour in a 9x13 pan and press down to uniform thickness.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until just barely starting to brown.  Let cool.

For the filling: While the crust is cooling, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat.  Then stir in the cinnamon and vanilla until well combined.

For apples: Mix together the apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until the apples are coated.
Pour ~1/3-1/2 of the filling on the (slightly cooled) crust, spread to cover crust.  Spread out the apple slices on top, then pour the rest of the filling over the apples.

Bake 30-45 minutes, or until the filling is set and lightly browned.  If starting to brown too early, cover with tented foil.

Cool until warm, and then cool the rest of the way in the fridge.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife.

Since marshmallows do not = dinner

I promise, we did not just eat s'mores for dinner the other night.  We started with a delicious goat cheese pizza and salad.
Jess and I share an obsession with goat cheese.  After we chose a date for dinner (something that needs to be done many weeks in advance since Jess is one of the busiest people I know), I then scoured my list of recipes for anything and everything using goat cheese.  I came across a really interesting recipe for pizza with a goat cheese sauce.  It ended up being perfect - we had a lot of the ingredients in our own kitchens, so it was really cheap to make.
To go with it, we made a really simple salad.  The original plan was to make a salad with pan fried goat cheese rounds, but after making the marshmallows (that was the first thing we did, since they take a while to set), and then assembling the pizza, simplicity was our friend.  And crumbled goat cheese won out.
Always drink wine while cooking :)

Recipe: Whole Wheat Pizza with Goat Cheese and Veggies (adapted from Cake, Batter and Bowl)
1 lb of your favorite whole wheat pizza dough (Trader Joe's has a great one that's cheap)
1 tbsp olive oil
10 oz fresh, sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas for good flavor)
2 cloves garlic, minced
~6 oz fresh spinach and arugula (I had some leftover from salad)
6 oz goat cheese
3 oz (6 tbsp) milk (any kind works fine here, I used skim because it's what I had)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Take out your pizza dough, if refrigerated.  It rolls out best when it's close to room temperature.
Put your pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and preheat at 450 F.  The instructions that came with my stone say to preheat it at 450 F for 30 minutes before using so I always do that - if yours says anything different, then just go with that.
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet (use a pretty big one) over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook until softened.  Add spinach (and arugula, if using) and garlic, and cook until wilted.  Remove from the heat.

Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface into whatever shape you want.  (Just make sure it'll fit on your pizza stone!  Mine is a rectangle, so it supports almost any shape/size.)  We rolled it into a ~14 inch diameter circle.

In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese, milk, salt and parmesan together until creamy.

When the oven has preheated, put the pizza dough on a cornmeal-coated pizza peel and slide onto the pizza stone (which should also be coated with cornmeal).  My dad loves this aspect of pizza baking - he calls the cornmeal his "ball bearings."
Cook the pizza for ~3 minutes, just until it starts to hold shape a bit.  I always par-bake my pizza crust before adding toppings so it can crisp up a bit, and handle a heavy load of toppings without getting soggy.  If it starts to bubble up, just pop the bubble with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife.
Using the pizza peel, take the pizza back out of the oven.  Spread the goat cheese mixture on top, leaving a border for the crust.  Top with the mushroom and spinach mixture (warning - my mushrooms let out a lot of liquid, so I used a slotted spoon to pick them up and then pressed down with another spoon to push out as much liquid as possible.)  Sprinkle the red onions on top, and then the tomatoes on top of that.

Top with the mozzarella cheese, and then (carefully) slide back onto the pizza stone.  Cook for ~10 minutes, or until the crust gets crisp and the cheese is bubbling and golden.
Remove using the pizza peel, and let it sit for a few minutes before slicing up and enjoying!

Arugula Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese
This recipe is pretty basic - take a bunch of arugula, top with sliced roasted beets (Trader Joe's has them in the refrigerated section, pre-roasted.  Very handy.)  Crumble fresh goat cheese on top.  We made a simple vinaigrette using Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Enjoy your dinner with (more) wine!