Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudges

Making fudge has been a December tradition for my family for as long as I can remember. My mom makes every year some milk chocolate fudge, as well as her classic peanut butter fudge (which is always a favorite, and always devoured quickly). In recent years, I've copied her, and made a few adjustments of my own to the fudge recipes, with the end product being a bit lighter in flavor - I may yet change this again for next year.

I've experimented in the past with other flavors as well. I made white chocolate one time, which was overly sweet (even for fudge) as well as peppermint, which didn't quite come out the way I had hoped. I also tried chocolate and almond mixed together using almond extract, and while the taste was alright, it was in my earlier stages of fudge making and it ended up being too soft. It wasn't until recently that I got the right cooking time down to a science. My mom has also made chocolate with nuts in it, as well as a version that resembles a 50-50 bar in both appearance and flavor (this is now also a crowd favorite, and she makes it every year).

I made the peanut butter fudge last year, and my boss jokingly banned it from the building - he said that he was making too many excuses to go to the kitchen and eat some. I know when I go in after the holidays with the remnants of these fudges, my coworkers will be more than happy to devour them.

So if you're a friend of mine nearby, feel free to stop over and grab some of this fudge. It only makes an appearance once a year, and it's bound to disappear quickly!

Dulce de Leche Duos

These delicious cookies were selected from the same book used in Tuesdays with Dorie, but the recipe has not yet been selected. I know that it will be eventually, so I went ahead and made them in advance (I had leftover dulce de leche from the Snickery Squares). I decided to share them now because of how wonderfully they turned out. This is one of the recipes I will absolutely repeat in the future.

The showcased cookies are made as per Dorie's instructions - with a bit of dulce de leche sandwiched between the cookies. These may be the best cookies I've yet made from Dorie's list. The caramely and gooey mixture makes these nearly sacrosanct sweets simply superb. I ran out of dulce de leche after making a few of the sandwiches, and served the remainder of the cookies by themselves. These were still delicious in a very pure way, with the light touch of dulce de leche. They aren't over-sweet, but at the same time, they don't lack.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 161

Linzer Sables

This Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Living the Life. I didn't dust the top of these cookies with confectioner's sugar, simply for storage reasons (stacking them on top of each other, it would have formed quite a mess), but would if I made this recipe again simply to give the cookies a more decadent look. I didn't have the scalloped cutter that the traditional cookies would be formed from, but did use a second smaller circle to make a peekaboo cutout off-center. These cookies were made with raspberry jam in the batter, with additional jam sandwiched between layers.

If I make these cookies again (and I probably will), I'll blanch and dry the almonds before I grind them down. The overall color was darker than I was expecting, but that didn't effect the overall flavor. What's better than a cookie with a little bit of fruit in it so you get the feeling that you're not being completely unhealthy? The flavors of spices, nuts, and jam all meld together in these mild cookies, perfect as a light treat.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 134 - 136

Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

This Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Küchenlatein. It's a plain sugar cookie that is anything but. While it looks like any other sugar cookie, this treat is surprisingly rich and tasty. I had my friend try one after she professed that she doesn't like sugar cookies, and she was wowed. She stated that these brought back nostalgia of cookies she used to have when she was little, and that these were the first sugar cookies since then that she's liked. Dorie gets another one right.

After making the batter and cutting the cookies out, I sprinkled them with granulated sugar before baking them. These cookies shouldn't be crowded with icing, which would only take away the basic flavors that these embody. I thought sprinkling the tops with a bit of sugar would give them a little more visual appeal - now they sparkle under the lights while they're being served. The addition of cinnamon, while flavorful, could dampen the overall effect.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 146 - 147

Buttery Jam Cookies

This Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Randomosity and the Girl. These simple cookies combine ginger with a jam of your choice (I used apricot) and put it into a small bite-sized treat.

These had more of a ginger taste than I was expecting, but it wasn't something to complain about. While simplistic in their flavor, these aren't cookies to turn down, but they don't stand out as much from the other recipes from Dorie that I made for the holidays. These cookies are great in their own being, but don't seem to suit the time of year in which I made them. If I were to repeat them, they seem like they'd be a great springtime treat.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 80

Snickery Squares

In my attempts to catch up with the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe rotation, I also made these bars to serve for the holidays. The recipe was originally selected by Dinner and Dessert for early March. The three layers of these bars come together to give you the feeling that you've bit into a particularly rich Snicker's bar, a favorite of many people.

As with the brownies I previously made, I cut these into 64 squares instead of Dorie's suggested 16, simply because the bite sizes are better to serve at parties or get-togethers. This one held up better than the brownies to the multiple cuts, and the layers show themselves off beautifully. The sweet crust is topped by a mix of peanuts and dulce de leche (I had to go to 4 stores to find this - I was surprised, being in San Diego. I sort of figured I could find it at any grocery store), and finished with a layer of bittersweet chocolate and nuts.

These bites are very decadent, with just the right amount of all the flavors. I noticed that these disappear quite quickly whenever I bring them somewhere with me, so they're definitely a favorite. The recipe is rather simple and fast, so this would be one of those recipes that's easy to repeat for future use.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 120 - 122

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

I thought these holidays would be a great time to catch up on some of the Tuesdays with Dorie recipes I never got to try because I joined the group halfway through the year. This recipe was first made in early January.

If you want something extremely rich, this is the recipe for you. When I made it, I used dark chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate, and white chocolate. Originally made to form 16 squares, I cut it into 64 so they'd be more bite-sized (more appropriate for bringing to any holiday function). For the most part they held up fine, but some of the bites around the edges fell over - structural instability due to the nuts. Unfortunately I had to sacrifice those and eat them myself...darn.

Dorie suggests to serve these straight-up, but given how rich they are in even small portions, I couldn't imagine serving them without something to break up the chocolate, like vanilla ice cream. That's adding a lot more richness to the overall dish, so maybe you could make do with just a large glass of milk.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 98 - 100

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Raspberry French Yule Log

Time for the monthly Daring Bakers challenge. This month's challenge was brought to us by Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They've chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilège Gourmand.

There are six elements to this dessert, each of which can be adapted to your personal preferences. I made an almond Dacquoise Biscuit as the bottom portion, topped with carmelized white chocolate ganache. The two inserts are a plain praline crisp and vanilla creme brulee, all surrounded by raspberry and vanilla mousse. Topping all of it is a simple almond royal icing. I wanted to stay away from stronger flavors, like the typical dark chocolates that come with this dessert, simply due to the fact that so many other treats during the holiday season rely on these same flavors. I wanted to make something that would be a bit lighter, and would have a nice fruity taste added to it as well.


Almond Dacquoise Biscuit:
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon almond meal
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 large egg whites
4 tablespoons granulated sugar

If you want to make homemade almond meal, simply blanch some almonds, remove their skins, and bake in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant, then process roughly. Set aside any excess meal, then add to the processor the confectioner's sugar and flour, along with the almond meal, and process until just combined. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites and slowly add the granulated sugar. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Pour almond mix on top and fold together. Pour onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and smooth out until 1/3-inch thick. Bake in the 350ºF oven 15 minutes, or until golden. Cut to desired shape (I cut three 5-inch circles).

Carmelized White Chocolate Ganache:
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
6 ounces white chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat sugar in a pot over medium heat, swirling occassionally to ensure it doesn't burn. Do not stir with a spoon - it will introduce air. Continue heating until dark amber color is reached (easier to see in aluminium). In the meantime, bring the cream to a boil. Remove caramel sugar from heat and, while at arm's length, pour cream into sugar. Add white chocolate and submerge all pieces with a wooden spoon. Wait 30 seconds, then stir together until combined. Pour a small amount onto each dacquoise biscuit, then cool in refrigerator until set.

Raspberry Vanilla Mousse:
1 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup raspberry puree

Combine 2/3 cup heavy cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add cornstarch, and beat until no lumps are present. Add the dairy mix and raspberry puree, then stir until combined. Move into a saucepan and heat over medium heat until thickened. Move to a refrigerator to cool. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, whip the remaining cup of heavy cream, adding sugar and vanilla as necessary to flavor it. Fold together the raspberry and creme mixes with a rubber spatula - do not over-stir, it will collapse.

Praline Crisp:
1/3 cup whole milk
2/3 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon beaten egg
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Heat milk and butter together until melted. Add flour and mix until the mixture comes together. Add egg, sugar, and oil. Mix together, then spread thinly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for a few minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

Vanilla Creme Brulee Insert:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 210ºF. Whisk together sugar and egg yolks just to combine. Add dairy and vanilla. Strain and pour evenly into three creme brulee dishes. Place dishes into baking sheet with high sides, and add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 1 hour, or until the center is soft but the sides are set. Remove from the oven and cool in the refrigerator, covering with plastic wrap if you want to avoid skin from forming.

Almond royal icing:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Begin whisking the egg whites in a stand mixer on medium speed, and add powdered sugar slowly. Continue adding until the mixture thickens to a consistency that resembles softened whipped cream. Add the milk and almond extract, then beat to combine.

Remove the almond dacqouise biscuit with ganache from the refrigerator. Scoop a little mousse on top and spread with praline insert, leaving it in place after the mousse has been spread. Add some more mousse on top, then spoon on some creme brulee. Place into the freezer for an hour to ensure it sets, then top with more mousse, forming the final shape of the dessert. Again, place into the freezer to set. Top with icing (go lightly, it's fairly strong) and freeze before serving. Cut with a hot knife to go through it cleanly.

Raspberry French Yule Log

A lighter-than-average-flavored French Yule Log

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spicy Sausage and Parmesan Risotto

I have found a new favorite recipe. This is the first risotto to make that list. This being a hypothetical list, I can't go back and check what else exactly makes it, but this one definitely does. This dish is pretty simple to put together, but the taste is magnificent. It has an aura of comfort food, with a little kick of spice, and everything comes together brilliantly in this meal.

Recipe - adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2007
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 hot Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 small white onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup California chardonnay or similar white wine
3 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 cup parsley

In a heavy (I prefer cast iron) skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and onion, breaking up any large pieces. Saute until the onions are translucent (4-5 minutes). Add rice and wine, then bring to a boil until all the liquid evaporates. Add the broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer until risotto is tender (15 minutes). Mix in the Parmesan cheese and top with parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

With a total preparatory time of about 30 minutes, this meal is fast to put together and sure to please. If you don't like spicy, you can substitute another type of flavored sausage to adapt the recipe to your own.

Spicy Sausage and Parmesan Risotto

With a prep. time of about 30 minutes, this meal ...

See Spicy Sausage and Parmesan Risotto on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

I actually made this recipe ahead of time for last week, but got lazy and didn't bother posting it. This Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by AnneStrawberry. Like its title explains, this cheesecake is simple but very creamy one. It was so creamy in my case that individual slices fell apart once cut, even after having placed it in the refrigerator overnight. Suggestion to those that may make this after me - maybe try freezing it, then cutting it, before putting it in the refrigerator to thaw before serving. That should help it stay together.

The taste is very classic, the sweet and eggy coming together with the cream cheese. I've always been a fan of cheesecakes, and cream cheese in general, so I wasn't surprised at how delicious this was. It was devoured pretty rapidly at work, so the general consensus ddidn't seem to disagree with my own tastes.

The top did get a bit more browned than I'd have wanted in the last bit of baking, so next time I'd throw a piece of foil on top in the end. The graham cracker crust always completes cheesecakes perfectly, and I loved that this crust in particular came so far up the edges to give a nice presentation.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 235 - 237

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Real Butterscotch Pudding

This month, Tuesdays with Dorie is altering the rules slightly by allowing us to post recipes out of order, so long as they're all done by the end of the month and posted on a Tuesday. I'm deciding to save the cookie recipes for later, so I can share them with more people during the weeks closest to Christmas. This particular recipe was selected by Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases.

I've always been a fan of butterscotch pudding, but I never put two and two together that butterscotch = butter + scotch. I guess since I grew up eating it, it was just a flavor of its own and had nothing to do with liquor. It's surprising how the flavors of brown sugar, butter, and scotch whiskey all come together into something so magnificent. This dessert definitely has the bite of liquor, so it'll be enjoyed most by adults, but the overall taste is smooth and sweet.

This is absolutely a recipe I'd like to make again, next time I have some sort of semi-formal dinner I can go to. It's a much more refined taste than the standard pudding cups you can buy in the store, and I'm sure most tasters will appreciate it much more. Dorie suggests adding buttered pecans to the top, and that would certainly be a great addition, but I just wasn't feeling up to it this week. If I were sharing this dessert with guests, I'd be sure to take that suggestion to give it a little more bite.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 386

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pennsylvania Dutch Stuffing

I was never very fond of stuffing while growing up. A mass of bread crumbs stuffed up a poor bird? No thank you. Besides, the flavors were never really that great, and the dish tended to come out either too dry or wet. That all changed when my mom started making this traditional stuffing, a dish with enough great flavors to allow it to stand as its own dish, and perfect texture.

This particular stuffing has apples in it, adding more depth and complexity to the flavors. It ties all the other vegetables together nicely with the meat. The stuffing can be baked in a casserole dish, or inside the turkey if you wish. I personally prefer staying away from stuffing it up the turkey because it complicates cooking time and could end up making the dressing dry - not worth it for the added flavor of a few turkey juices.

1 lb. breakfast sausage
3/4 cup raw bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 cup chopped celery
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 small apples, cored and chopped
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped walnuts
12 oz. dry stuffing bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the breakfast sausage and bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking up any large chunks that remain. Once browned, add the onion, celery, mushrooms, apples, parsley, sage, and thyme (in a pinch, you can use poultry seasoning in place of the sage or thyme). Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until tender. Stir in the chicken broth and walnuts, then add the bread crumbs (more or less depending on how dry you want it). Add salt and pepper to taste. If baking in a casserole dish, butter a 2 1/2-quart dish and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slide stuffing into dish and spread evenly, but without compressing the stuffing. Bake 1 hour, and allow to cool uncovered before serving. Serves 10.

Sure, stuffing is traditionally served during thanksgiving, but this dish is delicious enough to be a comfort food anytime during the winter months.

Pennsylvania Dutch Stuffing

Delicious stuffing, better than the average bread stuffed into a ...

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cloverleaf Rolls

My job this thanksgiving was a simple one - to bring some sort of dinner roll. I wanted to make something a little different, at least shape-wise, so I made some classic cloverleaf rolls (something I hadn't done in the past).

3 tablespoons warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 stick + 1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 cup whole milk
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

In a stand mixer bowl, mix together the water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes and froth. Melt 3/4 of the stick of butter, add milk to the mixture, and heat until lukewarm in a microwave. Add the milk and butter mixture into the yeast, add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, bread flour, and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon, and then place into the stand mixer with a hook attachment. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, and begin kneading the dough. Add the remaining flour slowly until the dough is no longer sticky (about 10 minutes of kneading). Cover with a towel and wait for it to double in size, about 1 hour. In the meantime, butter 18 muffin cups with 2 tablespoons butter. Punch down the dough and cut into 54 equal portions (I cut the dough in half, divided each half into thirds, divided each third into an additional third, and thirded one last time to try to get even pieces). Roll each bit of dough with your fingers to get a roughly round shape, and position three pieces into each muffin cup. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise 30-40 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. If the seeds need to be toasted, empty them into a heavy skillet and put over medium heat, stirring frequently until lightly browned and fragrant. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and brush the tops of each roll, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Bake 15-20 minutes.

These simple rolls are fairly simplistic in their flavors, so serve them alongside some jams or butter. Their fun shapes and ease to pull them apart set them aside from the standard dinner rolls, and you could boost the flavors to your own whim by topping them with a different spice or herb of choice.

Cloverleaf Rolls

These simple rolls are fairly simplistic in their flavors, so ...

See Cloverleaf Rolls on Key Ingredient.

Lemon Pancetta Risotto

This dish throws various vegetables together with a bit of pancetta, and melds the flavors together with the strong use of lemon and Parmesan cheese. As with most risotto recipes, it's fairly easy to put together and takes little time. It's warm and filling, perfect for the winter months.

5 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, quartered
3 ounces pancetta
2 (2x1-inch) strips of lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces frozen peas
1 cup dry Arborio rice
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring broth to a boil, and then turn temperature down and simmer. In a food processor, chop the garlic, then add the onion and pancetta. Process until roughly chopped. In a heavy pan, add lemon zest and oil, then heat over medium-high. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden. Pour frozen peas into the simmering broth, and allow to cook for 2 minutes before straining and setting aside. Pour the chicken broth into the cooked onion mixture, then add the rice. Turn heat to high and cook 10-12 minutes, or until it has thickened. Stir in the cooked peas, Parmesan cheese, butter, and pepper. Remove lemon strips, give the mixture one more stir, and serve warm. Serves 4-6.

If you are not particularly fond of lemons, I would suggest altering the recipe a bit, perhaps adding more pancetta in their stead. This is a very adaptive sort of recipe, so you're free to add whatever vegetables you might have lying around if peas are not convenient.

Lemon Pancetta Risotto

This dish throws various vegetables together with a bit of ...

See Lemon Pancetta Risotto on Key Ingredient.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to make a caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting. In addition, a suggestion was to make homemade caramels to be served with the cake. I made some homemade caramels to go along with this recipe (though not the recipe suggested by the group), adding more texture to this decadent dessert. The cake as a whole isn't overly rich, allowing you to truly enjoy it. The challenge this month was hosted by Culinary Curiosity, and co-hosted by Blondie and Brownie, Foray into Food, and Gluten-a-Go-Go.

This cake is not overly complicated, nor is it pretentious. Its basic flavors are more than enough to support it, so there is no need to add details that could potentially take away from the burnt caramel and butter goodness. It would be remiss to force something overbearing into this cake, which would be easy to do considering the light flavors, so I would suggest you make the cake as-is.

Recipe (originally by Shuna Fish Lydon, her signature caramel cake)

Caramel Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water, divided

In a heavy pot, suspend the sugar in 1/2 cup of water - it will not fully dissolve. Heat high until the color turns dark amber. Remove from heat, and keeping the pot at an arm's length distance, slowly (and carefully) add the remaining cup of water. Step away from the mixture until it stops bubbling, then place over medium heat, whisking until reduced. When you drop a bit onto a cold plate and rub it between your fingers after it's cooled, it should have a consistency thicker than syrup but thinner than honey. Place into a glass jar to cool, and store at room temperature.

Caramelized Butter Frosting:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner's sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher salt to taste

In a light pan, cook the butter over medium heat until it is browned and emits a nutty aroma. Pour through a small sieve into a stand mixer bowl and allow to cool completely. Using a whisk attachment, begin whisking the butter and add the sugar slowly. Once it begins to form chunks, add cream and caramel syrup a tablespoon at a time. Add more sugar until chunky, and then again add cream or syrup. Continue doing this until all the confectioner's sugar is whisked smoothly into the frosting. Add kosher salt to taste. Can be refrigerated a week in advance. Before using, allow to warm to room temperature and whisk to fluff it.

Caramel Cake:
10 tablespoons, unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup caramel syrup
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole milk, divided

Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease a 9-inch cake pan with sides at least 2 inches high. Cut the butter into 10 pieces and place into a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add the sugar and cream together on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the salt, and turn speed down to medium-low. Slowly add the caramel syrup in a steady stream. Once incorporated, add the eggs one at a time, waiting until the first one is fully incorporated before adding the second. Pour in the vanilla extract and stir until combined. Add the flour and baking powder together, mix, and then separate into three equal portions. Add the first third into the batter and mix until combined. Add 1/2 cup of the milk, mix until combined, and then add another third of the flour. Repeat with the remaining milk and flour. Don't over-mix the batter. Turn off the stand mixer and fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula to ensure no flour collected at the bottom. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 30 minutes, rotate 90º, and then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before cutting or adding frosting.

Homemade Caramels:
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups brown sugar, packed

Line a small dish (I used a 9x9-inch square pan) with foil, and then butter that foil. In a heavy pot, combine all the ingredients and heat on medium until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Wait until it comes to a boil, and then place a lid on the pot and allow it to boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and add a candy thermometer. Heat, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 250ºF. Pour into the dish, and wait a few minutes before scoring the top with a knife. Once completely cool (6 or so hours), break along these scored marks and wrap individual pieces in wax paper. Keeps at room temperature for one week.

Cut the cake horizontally into three pieces. Brush each layer off to ensure no crumbs remain behind, and brush each layer liberally with caramel syrup. The syrup is easier to work with when hot, so warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds if need be. Put the cake back together and add the frosting to your desire. I simply smoothed out the sides, and then piped on a random design on the top. You can crunch up some of the homemade caramels as well and sprinkle them on top. Serves 12-16. After you slice it and place on a plate, drizzle with a little caramel syrup for presentation.

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

A light yet flavorful cake with the taste of caramel ...

See Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is a combination of two Thanksgiving dessert favorites - pumpkin pie and pecan pie. It was selected by La casserole carrée. This pie is made with a layer of perfectly spiced pumpkin pie filling, and then topped with pecans and covered with brown sugar spiced syrup like any pecan pie.

I've never made pumpkin or pecan pies before (though I've eaten my fair share over the previous years of Thanksgiving), but I was surprised with how well the two layers go together. I think if you made non-Dorie pumpkin and pecan pie fillings (the standard sort you'd put in a pie) and tried to layer them, the flavors would be lacking.

I ended up cutting mine into thinner slices than Dorie suggests - there's an awful lot of sugar and butter in each bite, and I figured it was rich enough to up the servings. Given the size of the pies (8-12 servings) and the relative ease with which this recipe comes together, this is an easy recipe to build via assembly line and pop out 2 or 3 at a time for Thanksgiving events. It would be unfortunate if someone didn't get to have a taste of this delicious pie because there wasn't enough to go around.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 321

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Homemade Mayonnaise

If you've never had homemade mayonnaise, it's definitely a treat you must try. I made a batch previous to this one about a year ago, but it didn't come out quite the right consistency or flavor. This recipe hits it dead-on. Homemade mayonnaise is so much better than the store-bought stuff, and it's so simple to make, that I'm willing to bet once you've tried a batch of your own, you won't go back.

1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canola oil, divided

Hand whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, Dijon mustard, and salt until lightened in color, abut 30 seconds. The Dijon mustard helps to keep the bubbles of fat in suspension so you don't get separation later down the road - don't skip it. Wrap a wet towel around the outside of the bowl so it stays in place while you whisk (you'll need both hands off the bowl), or sit down with the bowl in your lap so it won't go anywhere. Continuously whisk and add 1/4 cup of canola oil dropwise. Once it's all been added, pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of canola oil in a slow stream while steadily whisking. It's vital that you don't add the oil too quickly, or the fat globules will combine and you'll get a separated mix of egg and oil. After the oil has all been added, place into the refrigerator, or enjoy it as is. Remember, this does have raw egg in it, so take the precautions you deem necessary - use pasteurized eggs if need be. Makes 1 cup of mayonnaise.

This is delicious by itself on bread, particularly egg bread. You could of course use it wherever you would usually use mayonnaise - egg salads, deviled eggs, sandwiches. I was never a big fan of tuna, but mixing a can of shredded tuna with some of this mayonnaise, and adding a little salt and pepper, then serving on an egg bread knot got me to change that quickly.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade mayonnaise proves to be better than the generic store-brand ...

See Homemade Mayonnaise on Key Ingredient.

Egg Bread Knots

I was in the mood for making a different sort of bread, and had a large batch of eggs in the refrigerator about to go bad. I found an egg bread recipe, but it formed a large loaf. I decided to change it up a little bit and make these simple knots instead. They're a perfect size for a sandwich (about the size of a large hamburger bun), and they're fluffy inside with the added light taste of eggs.

I baked two batches at the same time, but the top batch browned a bit more than I had anticipated. It didn't burn, so the taste wasn't poor, but it just came out darker than my liking. If you prefer a browned top, stick to the top third of the oven - a lighter golden color is achieved by using the lower third.

4 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
6 egg yolks
4 eggs, divided
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in the warm water. Combine egg yolks plus three eggs (the remaining egg is for an egg wash) and whisk together lightly. Pour this into the dissolved yeast mixture and add the vegetable oil, sugar, salt, and 3 1/2 cups of flour. Using a stand mixer attached with a paddle attachment, begin kneading the dough on low speed, adding the remaining flour until the dough pulls cleanly away from the edges. Continue kneading for 8 minutes. Oil a large bowl and add the dough - allow to rise for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and cut into 16 equal pieces.

Lightly knead each individual piece to get rid of air pockets (they rise quickly) and roll into an 18-inch long tube shape.

Fold one end over the other, and form the knot by tucking one end underneath the formed circle, and the other on top.

Place 8 on each of two baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Maximize empty space - they'll double in size during proofing. Allow to proof for 45 minutes, and preheat the oven to 375ºF with a rack placed in the lower third. Whisk the last egg and brush the tops of each knot with the egg wash. Bake for 12 minutes, then place onto cooling rack to cool. Makes 16 knots.

Although these have a similar look to Hawaiian sweet bread, don't serve this as anything other than plain bread - I got a couple confused looks when I brought these into work. They're great for sandwiches, or serve with just a little homemade mayonnaise (trust me, delicious on this bread).

Egg Bread Knots

Simple egg bread, perfect for sandwiches.

See Egg Bread Knots on Key Ingredient.