Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Sweet Cheese Puffs

December 7, 2008

When I first saw the name of the recipe, I kind of turned up my nose. Sweet cheese? I thought of the cheddar spread that comes in a tub. Plus sugar. But then I read it, and of course, it’s cream cheese, which is very delicious in sweet applications. And the description sounded dreamy- “like cheesecake wrapped in rich flaky pastry.” Ok, I’m sold! You should be too. It’s not the fastest recipe, but it’s not hard at all.

I thought I might have overworked the pastry, which is made with butter and sour cream, but it was beautifully flaky and tender. Oh, and delicious! If I can make these, so can you.

I made these again this weekend for a Christmas party. I set them on the table and they were attacked. I took off my coat and got a drink, and then I got a marriage proposal. They’re that good. Sorry Sandy, I didn’t mean to steal your wife.

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You start by cutting chilled butter into flour and salt. Sour cream is added and you eventually work the mixture into a dough, and divide it into three equal pieces. Plan this step ahead, because it will need to chill. I find it easiest to make this dough one day ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

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Then comes the filling. I was super excited to use my new zester for the first time. It worked so nicely I could have zested lemons all day. Some lemon zest and vanilla go into a food processor with cream cheese, sugar, and an egg.
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The result smells (and tastes) so good that part of you might want to eat it straight out of the bowl. But trust me! It gets even better.
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The pastry squares are rolled out very thinly and then trimmed into mini squares.
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You’re almost there! The filling is scooped in and folded into a “beggars purse” type of shape.
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Opposite corners are brought together and just lightly pinched to stay shut. These will partially blossom open in the oven, and it will be fantastic to look at and eat.
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After another short chill, they go into the oven and your kitchen will start to smell incredible. After 20-30 minutes, and they take on a lovely golden color, you can remove them and try to wait until they cool to pop one in your mouth. Good luck.

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Pastry Ingredients:
2 cups (280 grams) unsifted all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (5 ounces) sour cream (I used full fat)

1. Put the flour and salt into a large bowl, stir to combine. Scatter the butter slices over the flour and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture consists of particles that vary in size from small peas to bread crumbs.

2. Stir in the sour cream with a fork. The pastry will seem very dry because sour cream is thick and doesn’t disperse easily. Keep stirring until combined, then use your hands to manipulate the dough into a ball.

3. Divide the pastry dough into three equal pieces. Shape each into a 5-inch square, about 5/8 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 4 hours.

Cream Cheese Filling
Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 large egg
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

This filling is pretty easy. Process all the filling ingredients in a food processor until smooth. You may have to scrape down the sides once or twice.

Assembly:
1. Remove one pastry square from refrigerator. Set aside for 10 minutes before rolling it. On a floured surface, roll the pastry into a rectangle less than 1/8 inch thick. With a ruler and pastry wheel (I used a tape measure and pizza cutter) trim the ragged edges; then measure and cut the pastry into 3 inch squares.

2. Lay the pastry squares across the top of ungreased 12-cup miniature muffin pans, centering each square over one cup. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of filling on each square; then bring opposite corners to the center, and press lightly to seal. This process will also ease the pastry into each cup. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Roll and shape the remaining pastry squares in the same fashion.

3. Adjust rack to lower third of oven; preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

4. Bake two to three pans at a time for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until pastries are light brown. Remove pan from oven to a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove pastries from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

DECORATION: Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving at room temperature.

If not serving the same day baked, stack undecorated pastries in an airtight sturdy plastic container and freeze up to 2 weeks. To serve, reheat to freshen in a 325 degree F oven for about 7 to 12 minutes, or until warm. Cool slightly, then sprinkle with the powdered sugar.

From Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker

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Sunday Food Wrap

November 9, 2008

I got a little out of hand with my baking, I know. Anyway, I’m back on the strict Phase One of the South Beach Diet, again. I know I’ll stick to it because in just a couple weeks I’ll have plenty of indulgences. Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas are just around the corner!

David and I have started a little Sunday tradition. We try a new food or a new preparation and watch Iron Chef America and The Chef Jeff Project on the Food Network. It’s so much fun to cuddle up on the couch while eating and watching yummy food. It’s the best way to end a weekend.

A couple weeks ago I experimented with a soup. Soup is not something we make from scratch very often. Like, ever. We made this Zucchini and Yellow Squash Soup with Parmesan. It’s South Beach friendly, and it was delicious. It made a huge amount and we had it for lunch and dinner many times afterwards.

On the theme of soup, I made this Roasted Red Pepper and Red Lentil Souplast week. Also South Beach friendly, this had an amazing Southwestern and Mediterranean flavor. I will most certainly be making this one again. I made some changes from this recipe. I don’t have coriander, and didn’t want to spend $5 on it, so I used some black pepper and curry powder instead. Instead of onion, I used shallot. Instead of garnishing with cilantro, I used some Italian flat-leaf parsley and powdered Parmesan.
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Today we went to a birthday/bon voyage party for our friend Marion who is leaving on a trip to France in a few days. (Jealous!!) I was asked to bring fruit. I went to Metro Market thinking I’d buy some berries and grapes and put together a fruit tray. Well, they didn’t have ANY berries! A fruit tray of apples and bananas didn’t seem that interesting. They had a big variety of tropical fruit, however, and much of it was on sale! So I decided a tropical fruit salad would be delicious.

And it was. I mixed it up with a Vanilla Dressingcourtesy of Alton Brown (instead of lemon juice, I used lime, and I didn’t use the mayo). I had the following: pineapple, papaya, kiwi, persimmon, Asian pear, mango, and pomegranate seeds. OMG YUM! And pretty…
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Tonight was back to the South Beach approved food. David butterflied some chicken breasts and gave them a nice sear, and finished them in the oven. With a few minutes left to go, he smothered covered them in some dried herbs and cheese. YUM!
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We apparently had a white theme going on, as we roasted cauliflower (our new ingredient for the night) for a side dish. I tossed it with a little olive oil, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and powdered Parmesan. I roasted at 400 degrees for about a half hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, or until golden brown and delicious.
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I never thought I’d look forward to a Sunday night!

Frosting

November 6, 2008

There is no comparison to homemade frosting. I have bought, used, and eaten frosting in a can, but it’s not the same. I wouldn’t attempt frosting without an electric mixer, but a handheld mixer should work just as well as a stand mixer. Your arm might get tired, though. Frosting is also great because it is EASY. SOOO EASY! You can start with a recipe, but the amounts are all a little variable. It’s easy to add flavors or other ingredients, and still have a stable frosting. So, by “popular” demand (and my own memory)…

Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
(Please note that when making this, we did not actually measure anything. We kept drizzling in Nutella until it tasted “Nutella-y” enough. It turned into frosting with a silky, slightly gooey, creamy, “soft peak” texture.
Ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese (cold/cool)
4 TBSP (half stick) of butter (room temperature)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (sifted before adding would be nice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup Nutella
1-2 TBSP milk

Directions:
Blend together cream cheese and butter on medium speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add in powdered sugar. <You could stop here for a plain old cream cheese frosting.> Check texture after two cups. If frosting seems spreadable, gradually add in Nutella. Beat for about a minute to fluff it up. After Nutella is added you may need to add more powdered sugar and/or a little milk to reach a thick, creamy, frosting consistency. I added almost another cup of powdered sugar after the Nutella.

VARIATIONS:
I didn’t do any of these, but it could be yummy!
-Before adding the powdered sugar, add about a half cup of unsweetened cocoa powder for a really chocolatey flavor.
-Instead of milk, add a couple tablespoons of Kahlua or other coffee liquor.
-Add finely chopped hazelnuts at the very end.
-Do they make hazelnut extract? If so, use that instead of vanilla. YUM.

I’ll be honest. I would make this frosting even if I had nothing to frost. One doesn’t need an excuse to consume anything when Nutella goodness is involved.

Here’s another Nutella frostingrecipe that I found online.

Here’s my favorite(so far) easy buttercream frosting. You can add different flavors or some cocoa powder and melted chocolate. You can usually fix a runny frosting by adding more powdered sugar, and fix a too-thick one with a little milk.

Cupcake Madness

November 5, 2008

So, now that politics is mostly done punching us all in the face like an attention-starved child, I will recap a cupcake baking spree I went on with some friends.

Cristina’s friend Jenny was getting married on October 31st. She must be a very laid back bride, because she just wanted some friends to make some cupcakes instead of having a wedding cake. Due to my baking obsession and access to an additional stand mixer, I got invited to help out. We were very disorganized, deciding on what cupcakes to bake on the night we were baking them, purchasing ingredients, not starting baking until after 7!! Sandy volunteered her kitchen for us all, and everything turned out great.

We decided on doing basic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, and making a variety of frostings. We used this cupcake recipe, minus the apple pie filling, and this chocolate cupcake recipe, minus the filling. We also made this chocolate orange vegan recipe.

We split into two “teams” of two and went to work on the vanilla and chocolate. I had made the vanilla before, so I wanted to try the chocolate. I made a couple mistakes by not reading the recipe thoroughly enough, but everything turned out just fine!

The batter was kind of runny, which worried me a little, but wasn’t a problem. Also, this batter was not that tasty before being cooked. But the cupcakes tasted delicious!

The other team made some mistakes in mixing up the vanilla batter too, but nothing unfixable. In fact, it turned out great! And the batter was yummy enough that we all had to try it.
    

After making a huge mess in Sandy’s kitchen, all the cupcakes were in the oven or cooling on the counter top. We sampled one of each, you know, for quality control. I call this piece Relaxed, happy bride, with mess:

Then it was on to frosting. We decided on five flavors:
-Basic Cream Cheese
-Nutella Cream Cheese
-Peanut Butter
-Butterscotch
-Vegan “Buttercream”

We started with the basic cream cheese, from a recipe that Sandy found. It made a HUGE amount, so we split it in half and started scooping in Nutella to the other half. Well, and into our mouths.

Though there’s not much that can make Nutella much better than eating it straight out of the jar, this made a frosting worth offering to the gods.

And licking off every square centimeter of beater and bowl.

Then we got to my favorite. I don’t actually know how a frosting surpassed the Nutella frosting, but my peanut butter frosting did it. I was planning on using this recipe for the frosting, but we didn’t have any cream cheese left. So here’s about what I did:

Peanut Butter Buttercream:
–1 stick of butter (8 TBSP)
–1/4 cup-1/2 cup of peanut butter (I used a well mixed natural creamy peanut butter. I probably used just over 1/3 cup. You don’t want the texture to be sticky or runny, but you want a lot of peanut butter flavor)
–2 cups of powdered sugar (can add more if the frosting is too runny)
–1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
–1/8 teaspoon fine salt
–I added about 1 TBSP of heavy whipping cream while beating.

Directions:
Beat butter in mixer until smooth. Add peanut butter. Slowly add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until smooth and fluffy, adjusting amounts if necessary.

SO easy, and so delicious!! I licked the bowl and beater, and kept going back to the pile of fluffy frosting for more. I gave myself such a stomach ache, but it was so tasty!

The colors are kind of off in my picture, but the finished chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. And Cristina’s sprinkles.

The fourth frosting was a fuchsia butterscotch buttercream. Why pink? Why not! I made this using a regular vanilla buttercream frosting, but swapped out the vanilla extract with a concentrated butterscotch flavoring.

The vegan frosting DID NOT turn out. It just was a weird lumpy mess. Who wants to eat a frosting made with margarine anyway? Jenny’s vegan guest couldn’t make it anyway, so we frosted the vegan cupcakes with the basic cream cheese frosting. The vanilla cupcakes were frosted with the butterscotch or Nutella, and the chocolate cupcakes got Nutella or peanut butter.

Cupcakes were still being decorated when I finally had to leave after 10:30. I was exhausted but had a total sugar high. The cupcakes were nothing fancy, but I bet they tasted delicious and I hear the guests liked them. And… it was FUN!!

Halloween and Baking

October 29, 2008

Okay, here we go. Some pictures. These are from the last two weeks or so. I still have things to talk about from even further back, but that will have to wait again!

I have been baking like a madwoman. Why? Because this baby has been in my kitchen for the last two weeks:

My mom’s Kitchen Aid mixer. Sure, I can bake things without a mixer, but this puppy makes the impossible possible. Including creaming butter and sugar, because I do not have Popeye muscles. This is probably to me what pictures of sexy sportcars are to men:

So I have been baking up a storm. Since I borrowed the mixer, here is a list of what I have made, along with pictures, if I remembered to take them, and some comments.

For Bosses Day, I made Apple Pie Cupcakes (again) for my work and Peanut Butter Nutella Brownies for David’s work. They were all a big hit.

Then I attempted to make Slime Filled Cupcakes for Sandy’s Halloween Party. I had never made a lime curd, or even a lemon curd before, so I was really wandering into uncharted territory. At first, things seemed fine.

But as it cooled, it turned into this lumpy green jello stuff. And it tasted TERRIBLE. It was like lime x1000. It was just sick. So at the last minute, I had to switch my game plan. I had already made the cupcakes and the green buttercream frosting from that recipe, but I wanted it to be a little more special. So I filled them with chocolate buttercream frosting from this recipe. They were still a big hit. The cupcake batter was pretty easy and tasty. They were pretty light and fluffy. I would definitely use that batter again.

I made these Margarita Cupcakes for a party I had during the week. I know someone took pictures of them, so I’ll have to share later. Yeah, it uses a box mix, but it also uses real tequila. They were not your typical cupcake, but they were tasty.

I had a whole bunch of leftover chocolate and vanilla frosting, so I thought I’d try out another cupcake recipe to use it up. Later that week I made Vanilla Brown Butter Cupcakes. OMFG SO GOOD!! This might be my favorite recipe yet! The cakes were very dense and rich. And… they don’t even use the mixer! So I can still make cupcakes when I finally have to give it back. Surprisingly, they were totally amazing with the chocolate frosting. I had never browned butter before, and must have had beginners luck, because it was almost perfect. SO GOOD!

I made these Apple Hand Pies(or as I like to say, pocket pies) over the weekend. We had some friends over to carve pumpkins and eat them. These things are AWESOME. The dough was a lot of work, and I know I can do better, but it was worth it. The final result was so tender and flaky and warm and just.. MMMM!! It’s not a great way to use up my apples though, as I only used three for the recipe.

Also on Sunday I made Oatmeal Jumbos. They did not turn out very jumbo. I needed to use up some chocolate chips and some mini peanut butter cups. The cookies were good, but I think the batter got too warm, I over mixed it, or my baking soda is bad. Or all three. They were very flat. But they were still tasty. It made a HUGE amount of cookies. David and I both took a bunch to work, and they didn’t last long.

Monday night I made good old Chocolate Chip cookies. I’m pretty sure my baking soda has given out on me, because these again weren’t as thick as I had expected. They were still plenty chewy and delicious. Are they the best chocolate chip cookies ever? Quite possibly. I just bought more baking soda, so I will be trying these out again soon.

Also on Monday night I made up the dough for Shortbread Cameo cookies from my Sweet Miniatures book. The dough is in my fridge, just waiting to be cooked up.

 

Sandy’s  Halloween Party was super fun. I left a little early to finish up the night at a friend’s bachelorette party after I didn’t win the costume contest!! That’s okay, I was close. Being an election year, there were a number of political costumes. I went as Sarah Palin and David went as Joe the Plumber.

The “redneck” was wearing a wifebeater that said “GOD IZ REPUBLICAN” and the “clown” had a sticker that said “Votin’ for McPainin’.” Ohh, funny people.

There was also a hockey mom.

And Peanut Butter Jelly Time. And a Ceiling Fan.

And even the USA.

His costume was interactive. He has a real tattoo of Wisconsin on his back. So he brought markers and we all got to finish the US across his body. Hilarious.

The rest of my party pictures can be found HERE. And Cristina, apparently I stopped caring about taking pictures after I started mixing rum with my punch. So I missed a lot of action and a lot of people and a lot of costumes. 😛

Finally, check this out. It’s hilarious!!

Sunday Afternoon Baking

October 13, 2008

75 degrees in October? Not really an ideal day for slaving away inside over a hot stove, but somehow it was just perfect for me. There was a beautiful breeze blowing through the open window and warming rays of sun shining in on me. Heaven!

David and I went to church (two weeks in a row!!) and then went grocery shopping (including Trader Joe’s!!) to pick up stuff for today. I got these great curry chicken tenders from Trader Joes for lunch. Yummy! After a relaxing lunch while watching Heroes (OMG!!), I retreated to the kitchen to bake before the Packer game started.

Saturday afternoon David and I went apple picking with some friends at Barthel Fruit Farm. It was a little warm for my usual apple picking “uniform” (hooded sweatshirt for protection from scratchy trees and pockets for carrying apples down from a ladder) but I’m really not going to complain about beautiful weather in October.

Golden Delicious apples had just ripened and the trees were full. I was also able to pick a couple Spartans and Jonathans and a handful of Cortlands. Of course I had to sample.

So, armed with freshly picked apples, I knew I had to bake something to use some of them up, because there’s no way we can eat 10 pounds of apples before they go bad! I chose a recipe from Annie’s Eats blog, of Apple Pie Cupcake fame. These were Apple Crumble Bars. Kind of like apple pie, but in bar form.

I took a little liberty with the recipe. It’s a little scary to play with base ingredients in baked goods, but I made some simple substitutions and additions, and it turned out great. Click on that link above for her recipe and instructions, but here’s what I did…

Apple Crumble Bars
Ingredients:
For the base:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (Bob’s Red Mill. Regular whole wheat flour would work too, but sift it)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
Approximately 5 cups of peeled, cored, and chopped apples
5 tbsp. sugar (can substitute 1 or 2 tbsp. with brown sugar)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. lemon juice (fresh squeezed!!)
1/4 cup fruit jam (I used a low-sugar strawberry preserves from Trader Joe’s)

For the topping:
1/2 cup flour (I used a half cup measuring cup, and filled it about 2/3 with all-purpose flour and 1/3 with whole wheat pastry flour)
3 tbsp. sugar (I substituted 1 tbsp. with Maple Sugar from The Spice House)
4 tbsp. butter, softened

I still used the same preparation method from Annie’s Eats recipe.

Her recipe called for 4 medium sized apples. I had to guess at this one, because most of my tarty apples (Spartan, Jonathan) were very small. So I used a whole bunch of apples, and it was about 5 cups when they were peeled and chopped, and that covered the 8X8 pan pretty well.

These get cooked down with the sugar and cinnamon. I sprinkled a little of that Maple Sugar in there too. Then the slurry of lemon juice and cornstarch is added. If you don’t have one of these adorable little wisks, a fork would work too. 😉

Next is the base. It’s super easy and doesn’t need a mixer (a bonus for me, since I don’t have one). I used a fork and my fingers because I don’t even have a pastry blender. Just keep blending the butter until the consistency looks like breadcrumbs.

This is then pressed into the foil-lined pan. I didn’t press too hard, but I didn’t let it stay crumbly either.

This is then baked, and the jam is spread on, topped by the apple mixture while it’s still warm.

The topping looks pretty similar to the base, and when it’s all combined, it’s poured on the top of this deliciousness and baked. I added a little more maple sugar and cinnamon to the top before putting it back into the oven.

It comes out golden brown and delicious. Be sure to let it cool for a while before cutting into it, because the crust and topping are very soft at first.

I put mine in the fridge for a little bit to really firm up the crust. I found it easiest to eat with a fork and plate, but the crust is sturdy enough to pick up by hand. Just cut the pieces small!

It would be great with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but David and I dug in with a tall glass of milk, and it was still delicious.

Try it! Yum!!