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

See Raspberry French Yule Log on Key Ingredient.

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 ...

See Pennsylvania Dutch Stuffing on Key Ingredient.