Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pumpkin Indian Pudding

What a strange thing this was. I have a memory of my mother making indian pudding for Thanksgiving dessert one year. In my memory it was sweet and velvety, like the filling for pumpkin pie. Of course it couldn't have really been like that. Indian Pudding is a sort of New Englander's polenta. It's cornmeal mixed with milk and stirred on the stove for a very long time. Then you bake it in the oven for even longer. I found this to be very sweet, almost too much the flavor of molasses. It also is not the prettiest dessert I've ever made. But it is a New England treat, dating back to pilgrim time.

Pumpkin Indian Pudding

1/4 cup coarse-grind cornmeal
1 cup water
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly spray a 1-1/2 quart souffle dish or casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a bowl, stir cornmeal into water, mixing well. Transfer to a heavy saucepan and stir in 2 cups of the milk and salt, blending well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over med-high heat, stirring, 10 minutes longer until thick and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in all remaining ingredients except remaining cup of milk. Pour into prepared dish. Bake in oven for 30 minutes.
Remove and stir in the last cup of milk. Return to oven and bake 1-1/2 hours longer, until thick and bubbly. Serve warm.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Looking Back

I'm so sad that my last post was the Fourth of July berry cake. Here it is November already. In the past few months I've done quite a bit of baking, and had baby Violet! I'm looking forward to getting going again. But I've also been looking back. Last week was my daughter's school's Spaghetti Carnival. I volunteered to do some baking. I went back into the archives and made the cute sugar cookie pumpkins from last year, as well as some ghosts and cats, which were really cute. I wish I had taken some pictures! I also made the popcorn balls. I love that recipe. It's so much fun to make. I added a little salt this time- maybe 1/4 tsp. and it made a big difference. I found out that one of Abbie's teachers has a baking company and makes the most beautiful cakes, cookies and cupcakes. Their website is fantastic. So I started going back into my photos of cakes and cupcakes I've done- before the blog started. Here are some of my favorite projects.

This is a baby block cake I did for a friend's baby shower. It was the first time I used fondant. I really liked it. I got the recipe from Martha. I thought they were really cute.

Abbie was totally into Elmo around her second birthday. I did these for her birthday party. The kids loved them, although they looked pretty gruesome covered in red Elmo frosting. I did these again for a friend- my first paying "baking- gig".

Husband's birthday cake from this past year. It was an Ina recipe- chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. That chocolate buttercream was amazing. I had extra and froze it- it defrosted beautifully and I used it for cupcakes.

This was the cake for my mother's 60th. It was very pretty. I got the flowers from the baking supply store. I baked both these cakes at home (husband's and my mom's), froze them, brought them up to Tahoe, and did the frosting there. Baking at 6000 ft. can be really challenging. When I'm up there, I don't have the benefit of all my cool baking gadgets- like my mixer, so I have to make do with hand mixers. It makes things interesting.

This was the cake for Abbie's second birthday party for family and friends. It was a copy of Sweet Adeline's Bake Shop's Summer Cake. It tasted delicious, but I wish I had done a little better with the writing! I made the little daisies with fondant, then added a little royal icing dot for the yellow center. Looking back at all these, I think script practice should really be in my future!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Berry Cake

Happy Fourth of July!
I was in charge of dessert this year for our Fourth of July celebration at the lake. I really wanted to make the beautiful berry cake with the biscuit crust on the cover of this month's Martha Stewart magazine. So I followed the directions for making the biscuit, and left the dough in my fridge overnight. I baked it the next day. YUCK! It was raw in the center, and done too much on the outside. So I had to throw the whole thing out and start again. I gave up on Martha altogether, and went back to my Ina, who never lets me down. Here is her recipe for Strawberry Country Cake, which was absolutely delicious. I left out the orange zest because I feel that it can be too overpowering sometimes. Two great things about this cake- one, you bake once and get 2 desserts out of it, and two the cake freezes beautifully, so you can make it way in advance, then just defrost it when you need dessert. Whip up the whipped cream, cut up some berries, and you're all set. I added blueberries in mine to set the red,white and blue mood.

Summer Berry Cake

For the cake batter- this makes 2 8 or 9 inch rounds, which will make 2 dessert cakes. Freeze one and save it for later.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the filling for each cake:
1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream, chilled
3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 pint blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Then line them with parchment paper and butter and flour the lined pans.

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. If using 1 cake, wrap the second well and freeze.

To make the filling for one cake, slice the strawberries and combine with the blueberries in a large bowl. Add sugar to taste, and let sit for 10 minutes. Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until firm. Slice one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife. Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, spread with 1/2 the whipped cream and scatter with the berries. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Decorate with berries.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Whoopie Pies

Oh, whoopie pies. I love them. Whoopie pies are a New Englander treat, rarely heard of in these parts. Two chocolate cake cookies filled with a marshmallow cream frosting in between. It doesn't get any better. I've already eaten 2. Alright, I ate 2, then I ate the cookie part of Abbie's after she licked out all the frosting. I'm pregnant- give me a break.
The recipe I found has you make 8 of these guys, but that would just be too big. Typically, they are about the size of your head- but I think these smaller ones are better. Don't be shy when filling them with frosting. It's supposed to ooze out.

For cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Droste. It's the best.)
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
For filling
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups marshmallow cream such as Marshmallow Fluff (use what you can find- we can't get Fluff out here.)
1 tsp. vanilla

Make cakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a handheld, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.
Using a tablespoon size ice cream scoop, scoop the batter onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool completely.
Make filling:
Beat together butter, confectioners sugar, marshmallow, and vanilla in a bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Assemble pies:
Spread the filling on flat side of half of cakes and top with remaining cakes.
Makes 24 whoopie pies

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blueberry Ice Cream

Years from now we will remember this summer as the summer of ice cream. I started collecting ice cream recipes last summer, determined to try to make my own. Ice cream is very serious business to a New Englander. Growing up in Connecticut I remember ice cream socials and consuming gallons of ice cream over the course of the summer. Everyone has their favorite ice crceam shop. Mine was Dr. Mike's. Their strawberry ice cream was so fantastic. It was full of fat, but airy and just really fabulous. I just can't find that same flavor in California ice cream. So this summer I started by making strawberry ice cream. It was the best so far. I started with a basic recipe from Lindsey Shere (Chez Panisse) that I got at a cooking class a couple of years ago. By the way- the cooking class was really fun, but was cancelled for lack of interest. It was a collection of mothers who would go to the class every other month, prepare a meal, then eat what we prepared. Unfortunately, many of the other mothers didn't have much interest in cooking. One night while we were eating the women around me at the table discussed the lack of variety in take-out food, lamenting that they had to have pizza two nights in a row. I thought this was odd considering this was a COOKING CLASS. Anyway, one of the things we prepared was this ice cream, and it was very good. So I started with the basic recipe, but I didn't have vanilla beans at home. I priced them at Berkeley Bowl- 1 bean was $8.25. The recipe called for 4 inches of vanilla bean, about half of one. So I thought I would just use regular good vanilla instead. After all, this was going to be strawberry ice cream. For the strawberry flavor, I made some of Rose Levy Beranbaum's (Cake Bible) Strawberry Sauce. It was really good. I wanted to take pictures, but we ate it all before I could.
Next I made plain Vanilla ice cream. I found vanilla beans at Williams Sonoma for less- 2 in a jar for $8.50. I followed the recipe, and it was a little too vanilla-y.
The blueberry is good, and I love the color, although it doesn't really knock you over with blueberry flavor. I went back to using good vanilla for this batch.
Why did the strawberry come out best? I still really don't know. I think it's because the eggs in the custard were at room temperature when I started making the base. That, and the strawberry sauce that I used was really great. So here's the basic recipe that I used for the ice cream, and the directions for the strawberry sauce and the blueberry sauce. There will be many more batches of ice cream this summer. I'll keep you posted. Note in the recipe the liquid used. Most recipes call for a combination of cream and whole milk. This uses half and half and whipping cream, substantially raising the fat content.

Vanilla Ice Cream

4 inch piece of a vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. good vanilla)
1 cup half and half
2 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks (at room temperature)

If using a vanilla bean-Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the fine black seeds into a saucepan. Add the vanilla bean pod, half and half, cream, and sugar, and warm the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.

If using good vanilla- Combine good vanilla, half and half, cream, and sugar in a saucepan. Warm the mixture stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.

Whisk the egg yolks just enough to mix them and whisk in some of the hot misture. Return to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of the spoon. (Drag your finger down the back of your wooden spoon. It should leave a clear trail.)

If using a vanilla bean-Strain through a medium-fine strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed, scraping as much of the vanilla through the strainer as you can. Return the bean pod to the mixture, put in a container, seal and store in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

If using good vanilla-Strain through a medium-fine strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed. Add fruit sauce. Put in a container, seal and store in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

Freeze according to instructions on your ice cream maker, (removing vanilla bean first). Store the ice cream in a plastic container.

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups fresh blueberries
3 tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

Combine berries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook down berries about 5-10 minutes. Strain berries, pushing juice out with the back of a wooden spoon. You should have about 1/2 cup of sauce. Cool before adding to base mixture.
(I added the whole 1/2 cup to the base mixture.)

Strawberry Sauce

20 ounces fresh strawberries
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Freeze the berries. Thaw them in a collander or strainer suspended over a bowl. (This could take several hours.) Pres them to force out their juice. There shoould be close to 1 1/4 cups of juice.
In a small saucepan, boil the juice until reduced to 1/4 cup. Pour it into a glass measuring cup.
In a food precessor, puree the strawberries. You should have 1 full liquid cup of puree. Stir in the strawberry syrup and lemon juice. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
(I added 1/4 cup of this to the base mixture.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cherry Raspberry Crostata

Andronico's had these wonderful bags of cherries for a very good price. Abbie loves cherries, and I thought that it would be nice to bake some in a something other than a pie. I'm not a huge fan of cherry filling, in fact I really don't like that overly red pie filling you can get in a can. I've been reading Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee. In it, Lindsey Shere, the original pastry chef, describes how she makes a stone fruit galette. I looked up some other ideas and came up with this crostata. It was delicious, although not as pretty as I would have liked. To make a crostata, you roll out a pate brisee, or other pie crust, then in a bowl mix the fruit together with sugar and maybe a little cinnamon, some lemon juice, then you dump the filling into the center of the crust, and fold the edges up around the filling. Lindsey Shere has you mix the flour and the sugar, then sprinkle it in the bottom of the crust, then put the fruit on top. I thought this was a strange idea, until I made mine the old way. I ended up with cherries covered in a flour-sugar mixture, with the top half of the cherries exposed. This means that the flour and sugar on top of them never got mixed with the juice. I hope this makes sense, but this is such a great discovery for me. So I ended up pulling the crostata out of the oven and trying to roll the cherries to cover them in juice. The other great idea I got from her recipe is to always use my pizza stone. The bottom of the crostata was not soggy at all. I also used it for the Tomato Tart, and I have never had a more crisp crust. I also want to mention that I added raspberries to my crostata, which tasted really good, but the raspberries just fell apart. Here is what I should have done to make my Cherry Crostata.

Pate Brisee
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold!
1/4 cups ice water
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces, place in a bowl, then in the freezer. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds. Put the bowl of the food preocessor with the flour mixture into the freezer. Fill a measuring cup with ice water. Take the butter and flour out of the freezer, and add the butter pieces to the flour mixture. Process for no longer than 10 seconds- pulsing 1 second at a time. The butter should be big pea size. Dump the mixture into a bowl, drizzle 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture and using a spatula, press the dough together with the water. (This feels like it takes forever, and it does, but you will be rewarded with big chunks of butter in your crust. Remember- big chunks butter=flaky crust.) Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board, and form into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate atleast 1 hour. You can make this ahead and refrigerate 1 day, or freeze up to 1 month.

4 cups pitted fresh cherries
2-4 tbs. each granulated sugar and unbleached all-purpose flour (depending on sweetness and ripeness of fruit)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream for egg wash
2 teaspoons coarse sugar

Put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF for 45 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about a few minutes before rolling to soften it slightly.

Place the dough round between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 13-inch round, flouring the round lightly as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Remove the top sheet of parchment. Slide a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet under the bottom sheet of parchment.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Spread the sugar and flour mixture over the bottom of the crostata, leaving a border of about 2 inches. Place the fruit in the crostata next. Fold the border up and over the cherries to make a rim. Brush the rim with egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Use the pizza peel or baking sheet to transfer the crostata, still with parchment underneath, to the oven, sliding it, with the paper, directly onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust is nicely browned and the cherries are bubbling, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven with the peel or baking sheet and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On Again

I feel I owe some sort of explanation for why I haven't posted in so many months. I know that many of you keep checking back to see if there's anything new. I have been in my kitchen, and have made other things since Chewy Cherry Cookies. In my defense, I must say that being pregnant and raising a 2 1/2 year old sucks all the energy out of your body. So I've been cooking and baking, but not as much as I would like, and I haven't had time to post. I hope you will forgive, and keep checking back. I'm posting today some recent recipes- Hot Cross Buns from Easter- They are really wonderful. I'm not a fan of the funny dried/candied fruits that you can get in the grocery store. These have lemon and orange zest and are really fantastic. I used a bit of buttercream frosting for the crosses that I had in my freezer. Buttercream is great that way. If you ever manage to have extra, freeze it. Then you can pull out different flavors for frosting cupcakes. I also have a great hodge-podge salad that I've made with Israeli coucous. The last new post is for some chocolate chip cookies I saw Martha make on her chocolate chip cookie show. They are pretty amazing. I found that they're best right after you make them though. They got a little tough as the week went by. Still, I wouldn't turn down a chocolate chip cookie, regardless. I still love those Chips Ahoy. Anyway- I'm making my Tomato Tart for dinner tonight. The first of the really good heirloom tomatoes have come into Berkeley Bowl. I've got my garlic roasting now. The cherries are especially good right now as well. I got a bag on sale at Andronico's and I'm making up some kind of Cherry Crostata for the moms of playgroup for Friday. I'm also baking up some of Louise's Ginger Crinkles for the kids. So please keep checking back, and I'll try to post on those ever so rare high energy days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Greek-y Salad

This recipe is a combination of ideas from Ina and Martha. I call it Greek-y becasue it has flavors that remind me of greek food, mint, feta, olives, fresh flavors. It's great with a couple of grilled chicken breasts. It's perfect for summer dinner, not too fussy, light, and lots of flavor. Pound the chicken breasts down to about 1/4 inch, then grill with just salt and pepper. Serve over Greek-y Salad. Israeli cous-cous are big round cou-cous pebbles. I'm trying to incorporate different grains into our meals- I'm sick of noodles and rice. So look for it at the market, or you can use orzo which is great too. This will serve about 4 people. When I make it at home, it's enough for Husband, me and Abbie, with some left over for lunch the next day.

Greek-y Salad

1 cup israeli cous-cous or orzo

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives
2 thinly sliced green onions
6 oc. good feta, cut into 1/2 " cubes
1 tbs. finely chopped mint

Cook cous-cous or orzo in boiling salted water 9-10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Drain the cous-cous or orzo, then add it to the bowl with the dressing, stirring to coat. Let it sit to soak up the dressing, and cool to room temperature. Add the other ingredients to the bowl, and mix gently. Taste for salt and pepper.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes twenty-six 5-inch cookies or 8 1/2 dozen 1 1/4-inch cookies
1 pound unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 pounds Jacques Torres House (60 percent cocoa) Chocolate or other best-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.
Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 15 minutes for smaller cookies. Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 2 dozen
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl, pan, and knife
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/3 cups currants
Bun Crossing Paste
1/2 cup apricot jam

Generously butter a large bowl; set aside. Place 1 cup milk in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Heat until milk reaches 110 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour milk into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. With machine on low speed, add granulated sugar, yeast, salt, butter, lemon zest, orange zest, and eggs. Add flour, and mix on low speed until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms around dough hook. Continue kneading, scraping down hook and sides of bowl as necessary, until smooth, about 4 minutes more.
Add currants; knead, with dough hook, to incorporate. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead briefly to evenly distribute currants in dough. Shape into a ball. Place dough in prepared bowl. Turn to coat with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Turn dough out onto work surface. Knead briefly and roll dough into a log. Cut log in half and cut each half into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a tightly formed ball. Place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. Cover baking sheets with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until buns are touching and doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place bun crossing paste in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip or a paper cornet with a 1/8-inch opening. Pipe crosses over the surface of each bun. Transfer buns to oven and bake until golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes, rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, place apricot jam in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until heated through; strain through a mesh sieve set over a bowl. Brush heated jam over buns.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cookie Jar: Chewy Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

My plan was to not make any cookies, brownies, cakes, cupcakes, or any other sweet treats until February. I got to January 13th. I have a terrible sweet tooth. I really needed a cookie. These are almost good for you, right? And Abbie will eat most of them, and my husband will eat the rest. I only made a 1/2 recipe, and used a 1 1/2 tsp. scoop for the cookies. Because the cookies were going to be so small and cherries are so big, I quartered the cherries. These hit the spot. Abbie was sous chef on these. They were on Martha Stewart a couple of days ago.

Chewy Cherry-Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen (I got about 4 dozen from a half batch and small scoop)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, or 1 cup apple butter (a healthier alternative)
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups Quaker Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt; set aside. Place butter, sugar, and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine. With the mixer on low, gradually add reserved flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Stir in oats and cherries. Drop 1 tablespoon of dough at a time about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I'm really not a big fan of fat-free, hey, it's just like the regular kind, but all the flavor has been removed, food. I'd rather have the full fat, or maybe lowish fat food, but just eat less of it. I know there are those out there that disagree. They want to eat as much of whatever food as they want, so those fat-free options are a good thing. Hopefully, those people also can't taste their food, because so much of it really tastes bad. I read an article in the paper about how chair manufacturers have had to increase the dimensions of chair seats because American's butts are so big. A common stool chair used to be 12 inches wide, now it's 18 inches. I'm getting to my point here. While I don't usually like low or fat free food, it's January. After the baking I did last month, I'm going to need an extra large lazy-boy if I don't find some less indulgent recipes for a while. We went out to breakfast as a family the other day- something we rarely do, but was very nice all the same, and Abbie was asking for muffins. These were giant, covered in sugar almost like a small cake muffin. I knew I could make something almost as delicious, and certainly better for her. I ended up making smaller muffins, so my yield was about 18 muffins. The nutritional info for the original recipe was about 120 calories per muffin, so I imagine my smaller portion muffin is closer to 100. I have them in a bag in the freezer, and wrap 1 in a paper towel, nuke it for 30 seconds and voila! a healthy breakfast. How are they? Delicious, of course! They came out light and fluffy, not heavy little hockey puck muffins at all. They have a slight whole wheat flour flavor at the end, but they are whole wheat, so what are you gonna do? They still taste great. I used the nonfat yogurt, because I can only buy huge quantities of buttermilk at the store, and it's a waste to buy so much just to throw it away. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tbs. vinegar to 1 cup nonfat milk, if you choose. I did have to add just a little very coarse sanding sugar on the top of each one, which gives it a terrific crunch.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
12 muffins

1 cup wholewheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tbs. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk , or 1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
2 tbs. canola oil
2 tbs. unsweetened applesauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Lightly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. (Or just use the little papers like I did. I love the little plain white papers you can find at Michael's or a baking supply store.)

In a large bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, applesauce and egg. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry mixture, stirring until it is just combined (do not over mix). Toss unthawed frozen blueberries with two tablespoons of flour before adding them to the batter to keep them from turning the batter purple while the muffins bake. Lightly stir in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Bake until the tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Then transfer the muffins to cooling rack. Serve warm.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Semolina Dough for Flat Pasta

Last summer my mother in law took me to a cooking demonstration and tasting. One of the highlights of the evening was rolling fresh pasta. I took my little bundle home, and served it with some simple red sauce. Absolutely delicious. Anyway, while I was at the demonstration, I asked the chef about the pasta recipe. He told me he used a recipe from Paul Bertolli's Cooking By Hand. It's a beautiful book, full of instructions on preparing all sorts of lovely (and not so lovely- how to butcher and prepare your own whole pig) italian things. So I was very eager to receive this book for Christmas, pull our dusty pasta machine out of the cupboard and get to work. I chose to prepare the Semolina Dough for Flat Pasta, and was a little disappointed with the results. I carefully measured the ingredients, and kneaded the dough by hand. It did form a nice little springy ball. I let it sit for about 3 hours, then cut it into 6 pieces, flattened the pieces, and fed them each through my machine, adding enough flour so they wouldn't stick. Here is where I think I went wrong first. I started on the #2 setting, rolled #4, then #6, ending with a really thin pasta. Then I used the angel hair cutter. Mistake number 2. I let the pasta dry out a little, then started a big pot of water with enough salt to taste like the sea. I let the water come to a boil, then dumped my pasta in and (mistake #3) let it cook too long. I drained it, and added it to the sauce. It was very tasty, but a mushy mess. I don't know if you've ever overcooked fresh pasta before, but you end up kind of cutting it out of the serving bowl in chunks. My brother in law came to dinner that night, and was very kind, finishing every last strand with my dear husband. Although this was a bit disappointing, my fresh pasta days have just begun! -and I will cook again. Next time, though, I think I'll follow the directions.

Semolina Dough for Flat Pasta
For 4
Serve with a simple tomato sauce or with meat, poultry, or game sugo, the depth of flavor of which is best carried by pasta with a substantial bite and sturdiness.

10 ounces extra fancy semolina
4 ounces cool water
Pour the water into a bread bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. While mixing with a fork or the mixer's paddle attachment, pour the water into the center of the dough. When the flour begins to clump, start gathering and kneading the dough by hand. Continue to knead the dough until it loses its stiffness, is well incorporated with the water. feels smooth when and bounces back when depressed. Wrap the dough in plastric and set it aside to hydrate for 1 1/2 hours. Roll the pasta once through the next to last setting of a pasta machine and cut it to a width of your choosing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Black and White Angel Food Cake

This wonderful cake from Ina's new book, Barefoot Contessa At Home, is delicious! I wish I had a better picture of the cake itself, but you see the 2 year old can't get enough- so it must be good! I wanted to make a dessert that was on the light side for a New Year's dinner, but that had a lot of flavor, and felt like dessert- not some fruit thing disguised as dessert. Just fantastic. I saw Martha Stewart make some angel food cakes today in mini angelfood pans- like muffin tins. This would be great for that. Maybe bake for only 25-30 minutes. I covered the entire cake like frosting with the glaze, and used my food processor to grate the chocolate.

Black and White Angel Food Cake

2 cups sifted superfine sugar (about 1 pound)
1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups egg whites at room temperature (10 to 12 eggs)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely grated semisweet chocolate
For the glaze:
1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with the flour and sift them together 4 times. Set aside.

Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the eggs form medium-firm peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites. Beat on high speed for a few minutes until thick and shiny. Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until very thick, about 1 more minute. Scrape the beaten egg whites into a large bowl. Sift 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it very carefully into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour in 3 equal additions, sifting and folding until it's all incorporated. Fold in the grated chocolate.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, smooth the top, and bake it for 35 to 45 minutes, until it springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack. When cool, run a thin, flexible knife around the cake to remove it from the pan.

For the chocolate glaze, place the chocolate chips and the heavy cream in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts. Pour the chocolate over the top of the cooled cake to cover the top completely and allow it to drizzle down the sides. If you have chocolate glaze left over, you can serve it on the side with the cake.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone, and Happy New Year! I want to send an apology to my growing number of readers. I have been trying to post over the past few weeks, but I'm not able to attach pictures to my posts. I've complained and asked for help, but to no avail. I do have about 3 or 4 posts in draft form, but who wants to read a food blog with no pictures! So please be patient, and keep checking back! I'll get this sorted soon, I hope!

Hooray!! It looks like the problem has been solved! I've been able to finish the December/Christmas posts. Please take a look. I have been doing some baking this month, and am looking forward to working on some bread recipes. Stay tuned!