Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Coconut Butter Thins

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch. Unfortunately, I messed up the recipe a bit - decided to make some alterations where I really shouldn't have. I rolled the dough thinner than was recommended, and ended up burning all of my cookies. I saw the first half of the batch had burnt quite a bit, so I turned the temperature down and cooked for less time, but I still got more brown than I should have. However, now that I have all the ingredients for these cookies, I'll probably make another batch when I get an opening. If those turn out any better, I'll be updating this post with new commentary and better pictures.

Good news is that my oven's back up and running. The temperature setting is about 50ºF off what it should be, but I usually just go by my thermometer anyways, so that's not too much of a hassle. Here's looking forward to finally making some good food again!

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p.145

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spinach and mushroom lasagne al forno

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to make spinach lasagne (the pasta), then to create a lasagne al forno (the dish) using the homemade lasagne, along with a bechamel sauce, and additional ingredients of the cook's preference. The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge. However, as usual, I made some adjustments (from sheer laziness? maybe) to make this dish my own.


Spinach Lasagne:
3 large eggs
10 oz. chopped spinach, thawed and dried
3 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until everything comes together. Use your hands to incorporate any dry pieces that aren't going in. Attach a hook to the stand mixer, and knead the dough for 10 minutes, until satiny and elastic. Add flour if the dough is too wet, and water if it's too dry, each by the teaspoon to make sure you don't add too much. After it has been kneaded thoroughly, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes. Cut the dough into quarters and slowly roll out until thin. I found it helpful to roll one side until it didn't seem it could stretch any further, then flipped the sheet over and rolled the other side. Continue rolling until the pasta is very thin, to the point that you can readily see light through it. Cut into 4-inch by 8-inch slices, then set aside until you're ready to assemble the lasagne.

Bechamel Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 2/3 cups milk
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy pan over medium heat, then add flour and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue stirring until the roux begins to darken and releases a nutty smell. Add the milk, then bring to a boil and continue stirring until thickened. Add nutmeg, then salt and pepper to taste. I added quite a bit of pepper, giving the final Bechamel the appearance of country gravy.

Lasagne al forno:
1 recipe Spinach Lasagne
1 recipe Bechamel sauce
15 oz. Ricotta cheese
1 lb. Button mushrooms
1 lb. Crimini mushrooms
3 ounces basil, chiffonade
1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 350ºF and butter a 5-quart baking dish. Bring at least a gallon of heavily salted water to a boil, then boil your lasagne pasta for 2 minutes (only do 4-5 at a time). Gently remove from the boiling water and set onto paper towels to wick away extra water. Repeat until all the pasta has been cooked. Spread a thin layer of bechamel sauce across the bottom of the baking dish, then add a layer of cooked lasagne, overlapping slightly. Top with 5 ounces of Ricotta cheese, and 8 ounces of mushrooms (you can mix them together, or keep the different varieties apart). Add 1 ounce of basil, 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and 1/4 cup of the bechamel. Top with another layer of overlapping spinach lasagne, then press down gently, yet firm enough to make the surface relatively flat. Repeat two more times. To the top of the outer layer of spinach lasagne, spread the remaining mushrooms and bechamel. Cover with a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover with a tented piece of foil, taking care that the foil doesn't touch the lasagne. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10. Turn off the oven and wedge the door open with the back of a wooden spoon, and allow to gradually cool down for another 10 minutes. Remove the lasagne from the oven and serve warm. Serves 8-12.

This dish could easily include different flavors, maybe with a ragu sauce and Italian sausage. Lasagne is one of the great dishes to play around with, so feel free to adapt this to however your tastes may be.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Caramelized Onion and Pear Galette

I just now realized that the date for this month's Daring Bakers challenge was moved forward a couple days (i.e., today), and I have yet to make the recipe. I also noted that, because the date was changed, we can post on the original date - so if you're here looking for the Daring Bakers recipe, please come again in two days. I already know what I'm going to make, I just need to get around to making it. So that aside, I decided this was as good a time as any to post up a recipe I've been hoarding for a while.

This galette is perfect for the season - pears are coming fresh into the market, and the caramelized onions mix with Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts to provide a dish that, for lack of a better term, is somewhat refreshing. Think of it as an early spring treat.

I served this as an appetizer, and it's fairly rich in its flavors so I can't think off the top of my head any dishes to which it could serve well as a side dish, but it could be a vegetarian main course. That's how I ate the leftovers, at least.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large onions, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 recipe puff pastry dough
1 ripe pear, cored and sliced thinly
4 oz. Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a large heavy skillet (I prefer cast iron) over medium-low heat, melt butter and add onions. Season with salt and pepper, add thyme, sugar, and vinegar. Stir and sweat until the onions have lost most of their liquid and are soft, about 30 minutes. Turn off the stove-top and add cream cheese, then stir to incorporate. Roll the puff pastry dough into a circle (or your galette could be a different shape, if you wish) and place onto baking sheet lined with parchment. Alternatively, you could use a buttered pie pan. Place the onion mixture into the center. Spread out evenly, leaving about three inches from all the edges. Top with the pear slices, creating a circular pattern. On top of this, place the Gorgonzola cheese crumbles and walnuts. Fold the edges towards the center of the galette, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Serves 8.

This is a fairly easy recipe to put together, and is a definite treat. I'm thinking this would be a great dish to bring to a potluck, once spring rolls around. Or maybe a 4th of July appetizer. Something about this dish just fits that atmosphere for me. Anyways, this is definitely one that all of you should try.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blueberry Crumb Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Sihan of Befuddlement. Always up for something new, I ended up broiling instead of baking this cake. The oven we have here is an old electric, and after waiting an hour for the oven to preheat, it never got warmer than about 100ºF. The bottom burner looks like it's out (so no clue why it even got warmer than room temperature in the first place) and I'll have to call the landlord about that soon, but in the meantime I had the cake just sitting there, waiting to be put in. I tented it with some foil and put it on a low shelft, then broiled it, checking every 10 minutes or so to make sure the temperature wasn't going too high. Long story short, the cake ended up taking me about two hours to fully bake instead of the one, but the taste definitely (and surprisingly) wasn't affected.

Hopefully this problem will be fixed quite quickly - I wanted to put myself ahead a few recipes, as I usually do, just in case something comes up, and I need to make my weekly loaf of sourdough (I pretty much eat a sandwich and some fruit for lunch every day at work, and I refuse to go out and buy bread. It's not that mine's any better, I'm just stubborn like that). Anyways, people reading this are probably more interested in the recipe. So, let's see. Fresh blueberries in a moist cake, topped with a walnut crumb crust. Contrasting texture of slightly crispy on top of soft; buttery walnuts with brown sugar topping the fruity cake. As Dorie suggests, this cake can be eaten as a breakfast treat, as a snack, or for dessert. It goes well with any time of the day. Fairly easy to put together, but your friends will think it took loads more effort.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 192 - 193

Saturday, March 21, 2009

King Cake

Happy belated Mardi Gras! Yes, I know, very very belated. I actually made this cake late on Monday night just in time for the celebration, but forgot I even had these pictures until just now. Just as well though - hopefully someone can find this recipe useful and make their own King Cake for the party next year. King Cake is traditionally shaped into a circle after braiding it, but I left mine as more a loaf because I didn't have the room to make the braids any longer. I really need a bigger kitchen. It's also traditionally topped with colored sugar for the three Carnival colors (purple, yellow, and green) and baked with a trinket inside - whoever gets the piece with the trinket has to bake the next King Cake.


1/2 cup warm water
4 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour (or more, depending on your dough)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
3 eggs, room temperature
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, softened

In the bottom of a stand mixer attached with a kneading hook, combine the warm water and yeast. Allow to proof for 10 minutes. In the meantime, combine 4 cups of flour with the sugar, nutmeg, salt, and lime zest. Pour into the yeast mixture and add the milk and eggs. Knead until combined, then add the butter and continue kneading until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the mixer. Add more flour, a tablespoon a time, if the dough is too wet to form a ball. After the dough is fully incorporated, butter a bowl and place the dough into it, then cover with a towel until doubled in size (about 2 hours). Punch down the dough and divide into three. Roll each portion into a rod, equal in length (your choice - mine were 16 inches long). Braid together on a baking sheet, then cover with a towel and allow to rise for about an hour. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350ºF. After the dough has finished rising, bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

3 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons water

Combine confectioner's sugar with lime juice and water, and stir until the sugar has had enough time to dissolve as much as it will. Add more water, one teaspoon at a time, if this mixture is too thick. Pour evenly over the cooled King Cake.

Sugar topping:
3/4 cup of granulated sugar, divided
Food coloring

In a small food processor, combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 3 drops of green food coloring. Pour out and repeat with the green and purple (for purple, I used 2 drops of red and 1 drop of blue). Sprinkle the sugar over the iced cake until you get the finish you want - don't overdo it, though.

Make sure your cake has baked through all the way (I altered the recipe I posted because when I cut into mine, it was a bit raw in the middle), and don't pour too much sugar on top. I ended up brushing off a bit of it because it was overly-sweet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

French Yogurt Cake with Apricot Glaze

First off, I'd like to thank all the well-wishers from last week. I'm feeling much better now, and it's so nice to be able to bake again without fear of spreading sick to people. Again, thanks to all of you. Second item, happy St. Patrick's Day! This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction. I really had to fight the urge to add some green food coloring to this batter. A little green in the background will have to do. Thirdly (and randomly)...does anyone else have to fight the addiction for girl scout cookies? I feel like I keep getting conned into buying packages when I leave the store. This, after I complain that they never come to my house.

This cake is wonderfully moist and soft. It reminds me a lot of pound cake, but with a hint of almond and topped with a glaze of your choice. I'll be bringing this one into work today, and I have a feeling it'll be gone pretty quickly. Having eaten a bit of it already, it's surprising how fast a slice can disappear. All this, and it's probably one of the easiest cakes I've come across to put together.

If you're going to go out and celebrate St. Patty's Day tonight (and I know I will), make sure you wear green, and drink a lot of water. No hangovers allowed tomorrow - it's a work day.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 224-225

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chile con Pollo

In my quest to use my slow cooker more often, I came across several recipes for chile con carne (standard issue chili). They all had their own mix of spices, ratios of meat to beans, types of beans, random ingredients - and I came to the notion that I should just make something of my own. While in the grocery, I picked up a couple new spices and decided to experiment. I also switched to chicken, but that's just a preference. You could just as easily make this with beef (like a chuck roast).

1 lb. dry kidney beans, soaked in water overnight
1 lb. chicken breasts, cubed bite-size
2 medium sweet onions, chopped
Pinch of salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeños, seeded, ribbed, and chopped
3 strips bacon, chopped
1 14-oz. can whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chipotle chili pepper powder
1 tablespoon red chili pepper powder
2 teaspoons cumin
3 cups + 2 tablespoons water, divided
Juice of 1 lime
Toppings (cilantro, red onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, etc.)

Soak the kidney beans in water overnight. The next morning, drain them and place into a slow cooker. Add the cubed chicken. Chop the onions and sweat over medium heat, and sprinkle with salt. After about 10 minutes, add the garlic and jalapeños and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Pour into the slow cooker, then add the bacon and tomatoes. Combine the spices and add 2 tablespoons of water, then mix together to form a paste. Scrape into the slow cooker, then add the remaining 3 cups of water and lime. Give the mixture a few good stirs to bring everything together, then cook over low heat for 8 hours.

You'll come home to the smell of a delicious meal sitting there waiting for you. At this point, you can add more water if it's too thick for your liking, or you can make a paste from cornstarch to thicken it. For me, the dish was just right, and I topped it with just a bit of cilantro. This is a fairly mild chili, so if you'd prefer spicy, add another tablespoon or so of red chile pepper powder.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lemon Cup Custard

Man, what a week this has been. I haven't posted anything since the last Tuesdays with Dorie listing because I've been sick for over a week, and really don't want to bake while ill with the chance of getting others sick. Fortunately, I made that last cake and these custards well in advance, so at least I can post these. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles.

This custard is particularly thick, and rich with lemon flavor (I opted to follow Dorie's suggestion and added a couple drops of lemon extract), and the portions are just the right size that you can eat one, enjoying its rich flavor without later regretting it. I made six cups, but one of them didn't make it to picture-time. I may or may not have left it in my stomach.

Hopefully I'll feel well enough to bake more pretty soon and check out everyone else's cooking. As it is, I have a lot of recipes and pictures just waiting to be posted, so I'll try to update with some of those while I'm in recovery mode.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 387

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was Chocolate Armagnac Cake, selected by Lyb of And then I do the dishes. The recipe comes with a story about Dorie working at a restaurant, and adjusting a cake by substituting a few ingredients. I decided to make the original cake (with raisins and scotch) because I already had all the ingredients on hand. I can understand how Dorie could get bored making the same cake every day, but by no means does that make the original cake any less delicious.

The cake includes pecans in the batter, and mixes in raisins that have been soaked in whiskey. Many people aren't fans of raisins, I know, but every time I throw them into a chocolate dish, something wonderful always seems to happen. If the people consuming the cake aren't told that there are raisins, they'll tell you that the cake is moist, and that there's something they can't quite put their finger on. Even those that have an aversion to raisins seem to get over it when it's surrounded by decadent chocolate. Give it a try, you won't regret it.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 279 - 281