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.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Buttermilk Sherbet

Buttermilk? As a dessert? Really? And isn't it spelt sherbert? Yes buttermilk, with a lot of lemons makes a great dessert. Really. And no, funny story, it's actually spelt sherbet. I was a bit confused at first, but "sherbert" is a very common misspelling. Anyways, back to this dessert. Don't be afraid of the presence of buttermilk in a sweet dessert - it's actually an underlying taste, even if it's the central character.

I had a bunch of buttermilk in the fridge about to expire, and being tired of buttermilk biscuits and buttermilk cornbread, I strove to find something altogether different. I eyed my ice cream mixer, and went on a search for a recipe. The mixer recipe book actually had a buttermilk sherbet recipe, but I switched things around to better suit my needs, and to make sure I already had everything on hand.

2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 2 lemons

Combine all of the ingredients together and stir for 5 minutes. This is just to make sure that the sugar more or less dissolves in the buttermilk - you don't want granules in the finished product. Add to ice cream maker and operate as per directions. The sherbet never fully solidifies like an ice cream, but once it begins to get chunky, move it to a storage container and place in the freezer. Freeze at least 12 hours before enjoying. Serves 4.

When you first bite down on this sherbet, all you taste is lemons. It's after you've swallowed that a slight reminscing flavor of buttermilk hits your taste buds. It's actually a great pairing of flavors, and I was surprised with how well the two paired. If you want, you could also add a bit of mint - I probably will next time.

Buttermilk Sherbet

Buttermilk and lemon come together surprisingly well in this dessert.

See Buttermilk Sherbet on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Arborio Rice Pudding (with Raisins)

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was Arborio Rice Pudding, selected by Les gourmandises d’Isa. I had never made rice pudding up to this point. I've made bread pudding several times, but rice pudding is much more runny, and the preparation (while easy) is different. After making the pudding, I threw it in the refrigerator overnight to cool. When I woke up all I saw was runny liquid. I was worried that it hadn't thickened enough, but then I stirred a bit and found all the rice and raisins had settled at the bottom. Additionally, I may or may not have added an extra cup of milk - it was a very late night (bowling) and I sort of lost track of count mid-pour. Mixing everything up rectified the problem, and I got a delicious sweet breakfast this morning.

I made the vanilla version (Dorie's recipe offers both vanilla and chocolate) and added a cup of golden raisins while it was still hot. The mix of the vanilla and raisins go together nicely, but several types of fruit could be added in their stead.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 412-413

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spiced Chicken and Cinnamon Onions on Couscous

I was in the mood to try making some sort of international fare - something different from what I've made in the past. Most of my other cooking has been Italian, so I decided to turn south and try something African. I searched Epicurious for something appealing, and came across this recipe - with a few changes to better suit my tastes.

Recipe - adapted from Bon Appétit, December 2002

Cinnamon onions:
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium sweet onions, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat the olive oil in a heavy (I prefer cast-iron) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and saute, stirring every 5 minutes, until browned. Add the sugar and cinnamon, and continually stir for an additional 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Scrape out of the skillet and set aside.

Spiced chicken:
1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon paprika
5 thinly sliced chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (1 can)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2 cups couscous

In a food processor, add the onion, lemon juice, cumin, ginger, and paprika. Turn the processor on to high, until all the ingredients are puréed. Pour this marinade into a plastic bag, and add the chicken. Squeeze out any excess air and place in the refrigerator for 30-90 minutes. Heat the olive oil in a large non-reactive skillet (not cast iron - the tomatoes will react with it) over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from marinade and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from skillet and pour in the marinade. Add the diced tomatoes and broth, and boil until thickened. Return chicken and braise until cooked (cut into the thickest part of each chicken to make sure there's no remaining pink). Remove chicken and set aside. Add cilantro and continue cooking sauce, stirring frequently, until thickened to an almost paste-like consistency. Pour the sauce into a separate bowl. Prepare couscous according to package directions.

Spoon out a bed of forked couscous, a bit over 1/3 c. for each serving. Add a spiced chicken breast, and spoon on some sauce. Add the cinnamon onions, and sprinkle with cilantro for presentation.

I'm very happy with how this recipe turned out. The chicken is moist, and all the spices together work perfectly. While the chicken and sauce are delicious, when it's combined with the onions and couscous, the flavors combine wonderfully. The meal isn't too heavy, and would be a great course any day.

Spiced Chicken and Cinnamon Onions on Couscous

Spiced chicken and sauce, served on a bed of couscous ...

See Spiced Chicken and Cinnamon Onions on Couscous on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by The All-Purpose Girl. It's a simple sweet bread, or cake, with the flavor of butter, sugar, and raisins. However, this is the first time I had a serious problem with one of Dorie's recipes. It may be because I don't have a Kugelhopf pan and used a Bundt pan instead, but the dough didn't rise as expected. When it was freshly made, it doubled and I punched in down as per directions. When it was in the fridge, same story. When I took it out the next day to rise in the bowl...nothing. It still tastes delicious, but it's probably not as light and airy as it should be.

Lack of a rise aside, this cake is very flavorful in its simplistic way. The top is brushed with butter as soon as it comes out of the oven, then sprinkled with sugar to form a thin glaze (at least in my case). After it's cooled to room temperature, it's sprinkled with confectioner's sugar for decor and served. Small slices are perfect, giving you a few bites to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 61-63

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Raspberry Rugelach

If chocolate has ever been paired with better flavors than this, I've yet to experience it. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was picked by Piggy’s Cooking Journal , selecting Rugelach which can be varied to suit the maker's taste.

The dough is made in a food processor, and comes together easily. It's just cream cheese, butter, flour, and salt processed until it gets a curd-like texture. The filling is raspberry preserves (delicious, but the pesky seeds keep sticking in my teeth), golden raisins, walnuts, cinnamon sugar, and bittersweet chocolate. The chocolate spilled all over the place while baking, but it didn't hurt the flavor. I opted to skip the glaze because by the time I was ready to bake, it was midnight and I was getting tired (late bowling night).

Make sure you get out and vote today, people! No excuses.

Recipe - Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 150-151