Friday, April 8, 2011

Resolutions - Update

I am re-posting this list of things I want to bake/cook, as a reminder to myself.  You might notice that not much progress has been made.  I'm hoping I can start working on the list in the next few months.  I'm hoping I can make macarons sometime soon - one of my good friends actually has a gorgeous macaron cookbook, and I think I got her excited about making them!

* Souffle (savory and sweet)
* Pate a choux pastry
* Profiteroles with above pastry
* Croissants
* Pound cake
* Cake with fondant
* Stuffed mushrooms/peppers/tomatoes
* Cheese fondue
* Shortbread
* Latkes
* Burger buns
* Soft pretzels
* Salsa
* Macarons
* Macaroons (no I did not list the same thing twice)
* An interesting unconventional ice cream flavor
* Yogurt cake
* Profiteroles
* Candy (some kind of old fashioned caramel)
* Pot de creme 
* Artichokes
* Tiramisu (or other type of trifle)
* Baked pancake
* Babka
* Baklava
* Brioche
* Creme Brulee (I have the torch, just need some propane for it!)
* Jelly Roll
* Panettone 
* Old fashioned popcorn (the kind that doesn't come from a bag in the microwave)
* Whoopie pies
* Cauliflower (I know - it's crazy I've never cooked with it!)
* Panna Cotta (I had some for dessert on New Years and it was AMAZING)
* More artisan bread
* Parmesan cheese crisps
* Polenta croutons
* Ice cream sandwiches
* Sesame noodles
* Tortellini
* Calzones
* French onion soup
* Split pea soup
* Lattice top pie
* Eggnog
* Custard Pie
* Dinner rolls
* Flavored pasta (I have tried once and it was extremely unsuccessful)
* Poached pears
* Baked and stuffed apples
* Caramel sauce
* Pecan pie (without the use of corn syrup)
* Shortbread cookies
* Veggie burgers
* Poptarts
* Bundt cake
* Naan
* Pad Thai
* Gougeres
* Crabcakes
* Coconut cake
* Angel food cake
* Savory cheesecake

More Soup

I clearly was on a soup kick, and I had a craving for broccoli and cheddar soup (like the one at Panera).  This soup was delicious, and really easy to make.  I would definitely make it again.

Recipe: Broccoli, Cheddar and Potato Soup (from Eat, Live, Run)
2 tbsp butter
medium bunch of broccoli, chopped
1 russet potato
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
6 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 T all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
3 cups vegetable broth

Blanch broccoli by adding to boiling water for 30 seconds, and then removing and putting in an ice bath.

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter.  Peel and chop the potato into small 1-inch dice.  Saute both the onion and potato in the butter until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more.  Then add the cayenne, mustard, nutmeg and salt, toss to coat.

Add the flour and stir well, cook for 1-2 minutes.  Pour in the broth and add back in the broccoli florets.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 15 minutes, until the potato is tender.  Slowly pour in the milk, and add the cheese, stirring to melt.

Puree with an immersion blender to desired texture.

Asparagus and Rice Soup

This hearty soup is almost like a thick, creamy risotto.  It had such great flavors, and was perfect on a chilly night.

Recipe: Asparagus and Rice Soup (from Pots and Pins):
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups 1/2-inch cubed russet potatoes
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts
2 bay leaves
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 1/2 lbs fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch chunks
7 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 cup arborio rice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute garlic with oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat 1-2 minutes.  Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until crusty but not browned.  Add leeks and cook until softened.  Add vegetable broth, water, bay leaves and salt.  Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pot.  Cover, bring to a boil, and add the cut asparagus.  Lower heat to vigorous simmer and cook, uncovered, about 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until reduced by a third.  Add rice, bring to a boil, and cook 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and season with s&p to taste.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese.  Ladle into soup bowls and top with additional cheese.

Creamy Artichoke Soup

Craving yet more soup, I made this recipe.  It was really easy to make, and tasted pretty good.  I drizzled in some of the homemade creme fraiche from the golden vegetable soup, and I think that really brightened up the flavor.  And as you can see, I added a ton of "everyday seasoning" from Trader Joe's.

Recipe: Creamy Artichoke Soup (from Everyday Italian)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white parts only, washed well and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
creme fraiche, for serving

Heat olive oil in a heavy, large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the leeks and garlic and stir.  Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  (Be careful that your oil isn't too hot, or the potatoes will just stick to the bottom and scorch!)  Add the artichokes, stock, salt and pepper, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the soup.  Ladle the soup into serving bowls, swirl in some creme fraiche, and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning.

Stove-top popcorn

I decided I wanted to try to make popcorn the old-fashioned way.  I told my mom I was making homemade popcorn, and she looked at me like I was crazy.  I was basically making it the way she grew up making it.  But anyway, this is so easy to make.  It involves a little more time and cleanup than the microwave bag, but it's a lot cheaper and it tastes better.  And you can control how much salt/butter you are adding, and you can add some other flavors as well.

Recipe: Stove-top popcorn
3 tbsp neutral-flavored oil (like canola)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
salt to taste
melted butter, if desired

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add 1 kernel to hot oil.  When the kernel pops, add the rest of the kernels and shake so they are all covered in oil, and in a single layer.  Put the lid on the pot, and shake the pot, keeping it in contact with the stove burner.  When the popping slows down to about 10 seconds between pops, take off the heat.  Add salt, melted butter, and whatever flavorings you desire, put the lid back on, and shake it up.  Then it's ready to eat!

Everything is better with cider :)

The Long Journey to Homemade Panettone

My dad is obsessed with panettone.  It is usually sold in stores around the holidays, and he will buy and use up an entire cake.  I decided that this year, I was going to make my own!  This started with first buying the panettone molds, easy to find on amazon.  Next, I had to find the right recipe.  I found a few that sounded promising, and saw that they all included candied orange peel or candied citron.  Well this is where I started having problems.  I searched everywhere, in grocery stores, specialty stores, online - could not find it anywhere.  So I decided, okay, I'm just going to make my own!  I made candied orange peel that was delicious in the panettone, and was also delicious dipped in dark chocolate and served at a party!

The panettone itself turned out really well.  The "cool rise" method wasn't so successful for me, but it started to rise once I brought it to a warmer place in the house.  I wouldn't recommend adding the butter into the top of the dough before baking - it just made the center gooey and didn't allow it to bake.  I used a large panettone mold, 6.75 inches across, and it fit the entire recipe perfectly.

And the leftovers made amazing french toast :)

Recipe: Panettone (from Andrea's Recipes)
1 cup raisins
2 tbsp light rum
2 tbsp hot water
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp honey
12 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter (10 1/2 tbsp softened and cut into cubes, 1 tbsp melted, 1 tbsp chilled)
2/3 cup candied orange peel (recipe below)

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum and 2 tbsp water, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 8 hours.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, lemon zest, and vanilla bean at low speed.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, 2/3 cup water and honey.

With the mixer on low, pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture.  Increase speed to medium-low and continue mixing.

Add the softened butter, 1 tbsp at a time, mixing completely before adding more.  Increase the speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Drain the raisins and discard the liquid.  Stir the raisins together with the candied orange peel and the melted butter.  Stir into the dough with a wooden spoon.

Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cold oven 12-15 hours, or until the dough is nearly tripled in volume.  (Alternately, let rise in a warm spot.)

Discard the vanilla bean (you may have to do some digging to find it).  Rub your hands with flour, sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, and turn out onto a well floured board.  Sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough.

Fold the edges into the dough and place the dough seam side down in the panettone mold.  Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a draft-free place at room temperature until the dough is just above the top of the mold, ~3-5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Place the dough in the mold on a baking sheet.  Slash a cross on the top of the dough, and put the chilled butter in the X (I wouldn't recommend doing this).

Bake about 1-1 1/4 hours, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out with some moist crumbs.  The top will be dark, but not burned.

Recipe: Candied Orange Peels (from Mama's Minutia)
Peels from 5-6 thick-skinned oranges
4 cups sugar
3 cups water

Wash the oranges and cut the ends off.  Score the orange into 4 sections, and carefully peel each section of rind off.  Slice the rind into sticks about 1/4 inches wide.

Put the sliced orange rinds in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, then dump the contents in a strainer, discarding the water.  Rinse off rinds with cold water.  Repeat this process 2-3 more times.

Pour the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a full boil.  Add the blanched orange rinds and return to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 45-60 minutes, or until the pith becomes translucent.

Remove the rinds from the syrup, and lay the rinds out on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet.  Let the orange slices dry by either sitting out at room temperature (I would only recommend this in cooler months, otherwise fruit flies will go crazy), or by putting them in an oven set on "warm" for a couple of hours.
The orange slices can then be used as is, for snacking or in recipes, or can be dipped in chocolate.  The orange syrup can be used in drinks.

Homemade Applesauce

I went a bit overboard this year with apple picking.  I kept on trying to save apples to use for baking, but then wouldn't think of anything to actually bake, so I made a ton of applesauce.  I would have made more, but I actually ran out of room in my crockpot!

Recipe: Homemade Applesauce
~6 lbs apples (I used fuji and pink ladies)
3/4 cup apple cider
couple splashes of apple cider vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
1 tsp whole cloves
6 T white sugar
6 T brown sugar
zest from one orange

Peel, core, and roughly chop the apples.
Put the loose spices in a tea ball (used for loose tea).
Toss the apples with the sugar and orange zest, and add to the crockpot.  Tuck the tea ball and cinnamon sticks somewhere in the apples.  Pour the apple cider over top, and add a couple splashes of apple cider vinegar.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the apples have broken down.  Keep as is if you like it really chunky, or use a potato masher to get a smoother consistency.  You can blend it if you like it really smooth, but I like keeping some texture.  Make sure you remove the spices before blending!
not very appetizing, but I promise it was delicious

Soft and Chewy Ginger Cookies

These are my other favorite holiday cookies, but they are much easier than the rugelach.  All you do is mix up the dough, let it chill a bit, scoop, and bake.  You definitely have to underbake them, so they stay chewy for days after baking.

Recipe: Ginger Cookies (from Jenny Bakes)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened (1.5 sticks)
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses.  Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture.  Shape dough into walnut sized balls (or better yet, use a small scooper with a release mechanism), and then roll in the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar.  Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and flatten slightly.

Bake ~8 minutes, or until edges are set but center looked puffy and uncooked.  Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.

They are the cookies on the left.


A few years ago, my dad and I decided to attempt making the rugelach recipe featured on Barefoot Contessa.  Little did I know that we would be making the first few dozen of the 50 dozen (at least) I have made in the past couple years.  These delicious treats take a little while to make, but they are so worth it.  The recipe will make 4 dozen, but you don't have to make all of them at once.  You can freeze the individual pieces of dough until you are ready to make them.  And this dough is amazing - very simple to make, and somehow it is so flaky and tender.  You can also play around with the filling.  I usually make the filling that is from the original recipe, but sometimes I replace the raisins with chocolate chips.  I have also replaced the jam with pumpkin butter (as shown in the picture below), with good results.  Whenever using jam, I always use raspberry, but you can use your favorite flavor.

Recipe: Rugelach (from Barefoot Contessa)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz butter (two sticks), softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
6 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins (or chocolate chips)
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), finely chopped

1/2 cup preserves, pureed in food processor

1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, until light.  Add the sugar, salt and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined.  Dump the dough onto a well floured board and roll into a ball.  Cut the ball into quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.  (Dough can be made the day before, just let it sit out for a little while before using.)

Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl.

On a well floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle.  Using a pizza cutter, cut into 12 wedges of equal size, cutting the whole circle into quarters, and then each quarter into thirds.  Spread the dough with 2 tbsp of preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough.
Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge.  Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle on the cookies.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned, and then transfer to racks to cool.

Just some of the many cookies I baked one night.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Microwave Potato Chips

One of my latest toys is a mandoline slicer, and I used it to test out the "microwave potato chip" recipe I've seen floating around.  It definitely worked! (both the recipe and the mandoline slicer)
This recipe doesn't require a formal recipe either - just slice your potatoes super thin, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and then microwave in batches.  Put potatoes in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate, for 2-4 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through.  You might have to rearrange slices at this point.  This would be good with a wide variety of seasonings, possibly some parmesan cheese...?

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls and Perfect Salmon

Last fall, Sarah and I decided we had to make pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  This involved me looking through dozens of recipes, until we found one we both approved of (meaning it had pretty pictures).  It surprisingly included whole wheat flour.  I thought they turned out really well, but were best right after they were baked.

And then for actual dinner, we made really simple salmon and vegetables, roasted on cedar wraps.  I've made this salmon so many times.

Recipe: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting (from Good Life Eats)
1/4 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm milk
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (we used fresh)
1 tbsp melted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I just used regular white whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom

1/2 stick butter (modified from original recipe)
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each of allspice and ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

4 oz cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar, to taste

Stir yeast into water in a large bowl, let rest about 5 minutes, until it blooms.  Stir in the milk, eggs, pumpkin, butter, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom to the yeast mixture.  Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Slowly add the all purpose flour, a bit at a time, until the dough is stiff enough to knead.  Begin with 1 1/2 cups of flour and increase if necessary.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic, adding flour if necessary.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, ~1 hour.

Combine the filling ingredients, except for the butter, in a small bowl.  Transfer the risen dough to a lightly greased work surface, and pat or roll into a 16" by 12" rectangle.  Spread softened butter over dough and then sprinkle with sugar mixture.

Roll the dough into a log the long way, it'll stretch to about 20 inches long.  Using a very sharp knife, slice the dough into 15 slices.  Place slices in a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, ~45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 375 deg F oven, until they're brown around the edges and golden brown across, ~20-30 minutes.

While rolls bake, prepare the frosting.  Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth.  Add in powdered sugar, a little at a time, until desired consistency and sweetness is reached.

Frost warm rolls with cream cheese frosting and serve immediately.  Store leftover frosting in the refrigerator.

Recipe: Brown Sugar and Mustard Salmon
This really doesn't require a formal recipe.  Preheat oven to 400 deg F, and put salmon on cedar planks or foil, on a baking sheet.  Add some s&p to both sides.  Squirt some dijon mustard on, then sprinkle with brown sugar.  Bake for ~15-20 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.  Enjoy!

Golden Vegetable Soup

When it got really cold back in January and February, it was necessary to start making a lot of soup.  This one was easy to make, since you just throw everyone in the crock pot.  And the homemade creme fraiche is pretty darn good.  I like the fresh tangy bite it adds to the earthy soup.  And this works with any veggies.  I had a hodge podge in my fridge that I used.

Recipe: Golden Vegetable Soup (from One Perfect Bite)
2 tbsp butter
1 lb baby carrots
2 lbs russet potatoes
2 large leeks
~1 lb turnip roots
1 large onion
4 cups vegetable stock
1.5 cups water
s&p to taste

Creme Fraiche:
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sour cream or buttermilk
2 tbsp plain yogurt

Rub bottom half of slow cooker with butter.  Add carrots, potatoes, leeks, turnips and onions.  Add water and broth, and cook on low until vegetables are tender, about 6-8 hours.

Using an immersion blender, puree soup.  Season to taste with s&p.
For each serving, swirl in a heaping spoonful of creme fraiche (directions to make, below).  Serve with crusty bread.

For creme fraiche, combine cream, sour cream and yogurt in a small bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until thickened, 6-8 hours or overnight.  The longer it sits, the thicker it will get.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Maple Pot de Creme

My parents went to Canada, and brought back some maple syrup for me.  I wanted to think of a great way to use it, and I found this recipe.  This makes the most velvety, smooth custard, and really highlights the maple syrup.  You have to try it!

Recipe: Maple Pot de Creme (from 17 and Baking)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 deg F and arrange 4 ramekins in a rimmed baking dish.

Combine the cream, maple syrup and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat until it comes to a simmer.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla extract.  Using a small ladle, add some of the hot cream to the eggs a few tablespoons at a time.  Whisk the warmed egg yolks into the cream in the saucepan.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Pour the mixture into the four ramekins.  Carefully pour enough hot water into the rimed baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake until the edges are set, but the center jiggles when shook, about 50-60 minutes.  Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool to room temperature.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Cheddar Serrano Bread

I'm friends with some serious bread bakers.  They have a real brick oven, and have made hundreds of loaves for specialty shops.  When they found out I was interested in bread baking, they procured a banetton and a clay baking dish (cloche).  Then my dad rigged a handle on the cloche so I wouldn't burn myself lifting the hot dish out of the oven.  I wanted to find a great recipe to test out my new baking tools, and I definitely found it with this Cheddar Serrano bread.  I made one HUGE loaf with hit.  I think that the cheddar and peppers added great flavor, and the bread itself had a nice texture.  It stuck a little to the banetton, so I would recommend using a TON of flour.  This would also work well making free form loaves.

Recipe: Cheddar Serrano Bread (from Girlichef)
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 tsp sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting workspace
big pinch of sea salt
4 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
6 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Dissolve yeast in large bowl with water and sugar.  Stir and let sit 10 minutes, or until bloomed and creamy.

Mix in eggs and oil.  Toss cheese and serranos with flour and salt.  Mix into wet ingredients with wooden spoon.  Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, ~10-15 minutes.  (You can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook, which would take less time.)  Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic or a slightly damp towel.  Let rise until doubled in size, ~2 hours.  Punch down.

Form dough into a ball and put in a well floured banetton.  Let rise until doubled in size, ~90 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425 deg F in the last 30 minutes, with a pizza stone placed on the center rack.

Transfer to the oven and cover with a cloche, bake for ~30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

What to do with leftover champagne

So I need to preface this by saying we chose this recipe before we bought the champagne, bought pink champagne just so the cupcakes would be pretty, and then had to make a point to save some champagne to use for the cupcakes.  Leftover champagne is not something we are familiar with.  You need to be very careful when mixing the cupcakes, ours got a little tough.

Recipe: Pink Champagne Cupcakes with Pink Champagne Buttercream Frosting (from Gimme Me Some Oven)
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup champagne
6 egg whites

3 1/4 cups powdered sugar (we didn't use this much)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp champagne, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 deg F and line cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift flour, baking soda and salt, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne.

In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff whites form.  Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 deg F for 20 minutes.

With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter (add only some of the sugar to start, so you can taste for sweetness).  Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another 2 minutes.  Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Okay, so these are incredible!  Make sure you freeze the cream cheese, otherwise it can get extremely messy.  I didn't make the topping, but I'm sure it's delicious.  I halved the recipe, and it turned out perfectly.

Recipe: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (from Annie's Eats)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tbsp flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and mix until well blended and smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Freeze at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350 deg F.  Line muffin pan with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil.  Mix on medium-low speed until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl, stir until combined.  Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom (1-2 tbsp).  Slice the log of cream cheese into 12 equal pieces.  Place a slice of cream cheese in to each muffin well.
Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely.
Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving (otherwise the cream cheese will be VERY hot!)

Notice that one is missing?  :)

Updates on the typical stuffing and green bean casserole

I wanted to make a more gourmet version of stuffing and green bean casserole, and I think that I succeeded.  The stuffing in particular was delicious.  Why do we only make stuffing for Thanksgiving?  I think we should make it more often!

Recipe: Artichoke, Mushroom and Parmesan Stuffing (adapted from Our Best Bites)
Big bag of seasoned bread cubes (maybe 2 lbs?)
1 tbsp butter
1 lb mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
2 onions, chopped
1 cup diced celery
2 tbsp minced garlic
2-2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, in water, drained and chopped
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
s&p to taste

In a 12-inch (or larger) frying pan over high heat, cook mushrooms, butter, onions, celery and garlic, stirring often, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.  Pour into a large bowl.  Add a bit of broth to the pan (a few tbsp) and stir to scrape up browned bits, add to the bowl.

Pour 2 cups broth into bowl and add bread cubes, artichoke hearts, parmesan and rosemary, mix well.  Add s&p to taste.  You can add more broth at this point, if you want stuffing to be more moist.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.  Spoon stuffing into a 9x13 baking pan.  For moist stuffing, cover with foil; for crusty stuffing, do not cover.  Bake until hot and lightly browned, about 50 minutes.

Make ahead: Up to 1 day ahead, make stuffing, put in casserole, cover and chill.  Allow about 1 hour to bake.

Recipe: Green Bean Casserole (from Life's Ambrosia)
2 lbs green beans
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil
2 1/2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half and half
2 oz cream cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
* Note - I really wanted to do the parmesan + panko topping, but my mom insisted on the fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Grease a 9x13 baking pan.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, add green beans and cook for 3 minutes or until bright green.  (Might take longer than 3 minutes, mine were still crunchy after baking)
Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain and transfer to prepared baking dish.

In a skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter with 1 tbsp oil.  Cook onions and mushrooms 5 minutes, until mushrooms release some of their moisture.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  In the same pan, add remaining butter and oil.  Whisk in flour.  Cook 1 minute.  Slowly stir in milk and half and half.  Return mushrooms and onions to the pan.  Stir in softened cream cheese.  Once melted, season with s&p.  Pour over green beans.

In a bowl, combine parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.  Bake in preheated oven 25-30 minutes or until bread crumbs are lightly browned and sauce is bubbling.  Remove from oven.  Allow to cool slightly, and serve.

A Thanksgiving Dessert Compromise

We had our own Thanksgiving meal at home this past fall.  We used to go to my mom's parent's condo, then we started bringing them with us to my dad's parent's place.  This time we decided to keep it simple, with just us.  My sister was supposed to join us, but had a lot of work to do, so she stayed in Brooklyn.  Normally, I have to fight to include pumpkin in the menu.  My mom loves it (although not as much as I do), but my dad and sister are not fans.  They however both love cheesecake.  I decided that if I made a cheesecake, and swirled some pumpkin in, maybe they would be okay with it.  Well, I didn't hear any complaints!
This was my first time baking a cheesecake in a water bath.  It came out so creamy!  It still cracked on top, but I blame the pumpkin for that.
This was a beautiful, and delicious, dessert.

Recipe: Deluxe Pumpkin Cheesecake (from Culinary Covers)
1 cup crushed gingersnap cookies (I used some gingersnaps, and some graham crackers)
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
4 8-oz packages reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 tbsp cornstarch
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Optional garnishes: chocolate syrup, caramel ice cream topping, whipped topping, additional crushed gingersnap cookies

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Place a greased 9-inch springform pan on a double thickness of heavy duty foil.  Securely wrap foil around pan.

In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs, pecans and butter.
Press onto the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until set.  Cool on a wire rack.

For filling, in a large bowl, beat 1 package of cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Beat in remaining cream cheese, one package at a time.  Add remaining sugar.  Add 2 eggs, beat on low speed until just combined.  Add remaining eggs and vanilla, beating on low speed until just combined.

Place 2 cups filling in a small bowl, stir in the pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Remove 3/4 cup pumpkin filling and set aside.  Pour remaining pumpkin filling over the crust, top with remaining plain filling.  Drop reserved pumpkin filling by spoonfuls over cheesecake, swirl with a knife.

Place springform pan in a large baking pan, add 1 inch hot water to larger pan.  Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes, or until center is just set and top appears dull.  Remove springpan from water bath.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen, cool 1 hour longer.
Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.  Add garnish, if desired.

Baked doughnuts

I bought a doughnut pan last fall.  For some reason, I have only used it once.  This needs to be remedied.  But I did make some delicious pumpkin doughnuts when I used it last fall!  The recipe includes a glaze, but I didn't make it.  I was transporting the doughnuts and figured that would be a bit messy.  But I'm sure it's delicious.

Recipe: Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts (from Culinary Cory)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.  Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon, set aside.  Cream the brown sugar and butter.  Stir in the pumpkin, eggs, milk and vanilla.  Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mix until barely combined.

Spray the donut pan with cooking spray and fill each donut mold halfway with pumpkin batter.  Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes or until the exterior springs back when touched.  Allow to cool completely, top with glaze if desired.

Easy dish to bring to a Thanksgiving potluck

My lab was told that we were participating in a Thanksgiving potluck, about 2 days in advance.  I was really busy at the time, but still wanted to make something to bring.  This dish was so easy to make - I just dumped everything in a pot and let it do its thing, while I got some work done.  And you can add flavorings to make this dish your own.  I made this a second time, for our Thanksgiving meal at home, and added some bourbon :)

Recipe: Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce (from Two Peas and Their Pod)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tbsp orange zest

Rinse cranberries with cold water.  In a medium saucepan, add sugar, water and orange juice.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil and add cranberries and orange zest.  Return to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low.  Cook until cranberries start to burst, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Pour sauce into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator. Serve chilled.

Can be made 1-2 days in advance.