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Daring Cooks: Nut Butters

July 16, 2010

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I was so excited about this challenge, it’s not even funny. Every morning, I have natural almond butter on top of toast and I love it. It literally never gets old (and it’s way better than my old breakfast standard of whatever sugary cereal was around).

So I made two nut butters: cashew and almond. My almond butter was raw almond butter, because I used almond slivers and didn’t know if putting them into an oven would immediately burn them to a crisp. So it’s not exactly the same as my morning almond butter standby, but I don’t mind it.

The cashew butter was definitely different than the old standby. I crisped them up a bit too much when I was toasting them, and therefore the butter had a stronger flavor. But I liked it, and decided to make cashew sauce for chicken.

With the over-roasting, though, it didn’t turn out exactly like you would imagine cashew sauce, as you can see. It was simple, so I’m not publishing a recipe. Just cashew butter, coconut milk and cayenne.

Oh well, I am definitely making my own nut butter in the future. It was so easy! Also, I might experiment with spices and flavors in the future. Have you ever had the peanut butter from Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis (no relation to the tv show)? You should. It’ s a delightful mix of peanut, brown sugar and some spices. If I ever get around to it, I’ll publish that here.

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Pavlovas

July 1, 2010

Ok, so I’ll tell you about my week last week, and then you’ll understand why I didn’t post my chocolate pavlovas on time. And then I’ll tell you about the chocolate pavlovas and you’ll understand why I made them waaaay ahead of time. So good.

Last week, I went to Churchill, Manitoba (see ice floe, above) on Monday, got back on Tuesday and then worked my buns off until Friday afternoon. Then I went to Toronto, relaxed with some friends in Canadian wine country and came home on Sunday night at around 8. Meanwhile, I was sick, and so I went straight to bed and hence why it never occurred to me to post until today (Canada Day, so I’m off work). All very fun (well, except for being sick), but very post-inhibiting, if you know what I mean. And of course, I didn’t think to put a post in the line-up so I could just press a button and have it magically appear. That would be too easy.

Now I’ll tell you about the chocolate pavlovas: The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

See? These were sooo good. Chocolate on top of chocolate? Please and thank you.  As with some of the challenges, these turned out easier than I thought they would be. I suppose it helps that I have a little practice at both meringues and mousses.

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):

1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

Directions:

  1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):

1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

Assembly:
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

Daring Cooks: Finished Product

June 16, 2010

As promised, the finished product, a day late.  I really like the taste, but I think there was too much water in the layers, because it didn’t really come out like pate. More like the vegetable spread it wasn’t supposed to be, even though I left it to set in the refrigerator for about 22 hours.

Daring Cooks: Pâté and Bread

June 15, 2010

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice

So this week I am not such a good daring cook. In fact, my pâté is setting in the fridge as I type, at almost 9pm on the day the challenge is due. It has about another 7 hours to go, so I’m going to have to save the final pictures for tomorrow.  I was, however, able to bake my bread, so that’s a step in the right direction.

But even the bread couldn’t be that simple, because I thought I had plenty of yeast packets at home to make some nice whole-wheat bread. Then I looked in my cupboard and saw that I had about a half packet of old yeast. So I changed up the plan and Googled a “yeast free bread”. The result was pretty good, very simple and is definitely a nice bread in a pinch. I’ve copied the recipe from Recipezaar below.

As for the pâté, I was a bit behind also. I meant to make the chicken liver pâté, just to practice on my skillz. Instead of planning ahead and going to a butcher shop (in my defense, last week and weekend were just plain crazy), I went to the grocery store today. And of course, the grocery store doesn’t have any chicken livers. Gizzards, check. Livers, no. Alas. So I went with the veggie one, which I ended up drooling over as I was making, even though it’s going to take 8 hours to set and I’ve technically missed my deadline.

In the meantime, the recipes are below and I’ve provided some pretty pictures!

Note: For myself, I cut the recipes in half, because I just wanted to put the pate into my large soup cup mold. The original recipes are below.

Tricolor Vegetable Pâté
Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan

Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer

2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, pressed

Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.

Red Pepper Layer
7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)

Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.

Pesto Layer
2 garlic cloves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh basil leaves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup / 60 ml toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp / 45 ml olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 ml low-fat ricotta cheese

Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.

Yeast Free Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (preferably stone ground)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rice milk or water (works with any liquid)
  • 1/4 cup liquid fat (i.e. melted milk free margarine, vegetable oil, olive oil)

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Do not sift the flour!
  3. Mix liquids and add to dry.
  4. Stir until there is no more dry flour.
  5. Depending on the humidity of the air where you live you may need a little bit more or less liquid.
  6. The dough should be moist but not sticky.
  7. It may take a few minutes for the flour to fully absorb the liquid, so don’t rush to add liquid or flour to it.
  8. Score lightly the surface in a diamond or X shape to prevent splitting of the crust.
  9. This is a country style bread that should be sliced thick.
  10. It is important not to overwork the dough.
  11. Shape into a ball or an oval, with oiled hands.
  12. Place on clean baking sheet.
  13. Bake for 40 minutes at 400F.

Daring Bakers: Piece Montée

May 28, 2010

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

This was an interesting challenge for me. I think I liked the idea of the croquembouche, but didn’t feel like I could make it pretty enough to live up to the idea. Some of the Daring Bakers, however, made amazing creations (check them out!).

So I endeavored to make the profiteroles, though they were not as good as I’d get in a French bakery. Then again, I’m not a French baker and this was the first time I’d made them. It tasted good enough for a little dessert (I made a mini one), so I was glad I tried to stretch my boundaries a bit.

Ingredients:

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping:
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:
Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

Filling:
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Hard Caramel Glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Daring Cooks: Stacked Enchiladas

May 15, 2010

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

So, no, I didn’t make these for Cinco de Mayo, but when I did make them, they were delicious. I expected the tomatillo sauce to be hotter than it was, but it was mild, with only the hint of some hot sauce. Definitely going to use the sauce recipe again for other things.

Ingredients

1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams – roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)
7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams – peel, remove stems
4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams)
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
2 Boneless chicken breasts (you can also use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs)
3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
Kosher salt and pepper
12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)
Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional

Directions:

Roasting Fresh Chiles

1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.
2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.
4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.
5. DO NOT RINSE!

Green Chile Sauce

1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.
2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
6. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.

Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.
3. Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.
4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
6. Drain on paper towels.
7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
10. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

“A Certain Day in May” Pie

May 4, 2010

Technically, “Derby Pie” is trademarked by the good people at Kern’s Kitchen. So Kentucky area establishments have taken to calling this pie all sorts of interesting names. “A certain day in may” and “May Day” pie are a couple of them.

Whatever you call it, this is one good pie. It’s so rich and delectable that it’s definitely a special occasion treat. I’ve only ever had it at Derby time, and that’s probably enough for a year. Otherwise, it might all go straight to my hips (and there are plenty of other things that go straight to my hips.

But a Derby Day treat it is, and fit for the celebration! I’m a little late posting this, but next year, grab your bourbon and some pie to watch the fastest two minutes in sports.

Congrats to SuperSaver for the win! A fitting name for these times, no?

I’d also like to announce that this was a first for me, in that it was the first time I’d made my own pie crust. All my life, practically, I’ve heard about how difficult pie crust is to get just flaky and right. I was lucky enough to scout out an excellent recipe from the Pioneer Woman, here, that turned out pretty well for me. Have you met her? She’s amazing; you should check her out.

Of course, it’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, but it tasted alright and was flaky. I’m certain that this was beginner’s luck, and that next time it will be all headaches.

My Derby Pie recipe comes from the Examiner, here.  I made three pies, by doubling one recipe and then making an extra later on.  In the first one, I omitted the bourbon because the Canadian’s mother is intolerant of alcohol in any form (I know, it’s sad). I think that might be why the crust didn’t crackle, but the taste was just as good.

Kentucky Derby Pie
from Donna Diegal of the Providence Food Examiner

Ingredients

  • Your favorite pie crust, or a frozen pie crust
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup Karo light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 3/4 cup gourmet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, shelled and chopped in half if desired

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Roll crust or use a store bought pre-baked pie crust, line a 10-inch deep dish pie pan with the dough, and flute the edges as desired.
  • In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed with whisk attachment, whip butter, sugars, corn syrup, eggs, vanilla and bourbon together until frothy.
  • Remove bowl from mixer, and fold in chocolate chips and pecans or walnuts. Blend well.
  • Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until set.
  • Serve warm, or cool completely before serving with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Yields 8-10 slices.