Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chocolate Cream Tartlets -- Tuesdays with Dorie and Caramel Cashew Mini Cheesecakes -- Daring Bakers

This is going to be a very sweet post! When blogging events collide, here is the outcome, not bad, right? The cheesecakes are for the Daring Bakers and the Chocolate Cream Tartlets are for Tuesdays with Dorie. Maybe in a perfect world, where I didn't wait until the last minute to do my baking, I would have done a wonderful DB post about the cheesecake challenge, and the next day done a beautiful TWD post about the Chocolate Cream Tartlets, picked by Kim of Scrumptious Photography (thanks, Kim!). But here it is Monday night -- tsk, tsk, tsk, always the procrastinator, even though I love the idea of planning ahead, and plan to try it at some point, really :)

First up...Daring Bakers -- The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. Thank you, Jenny!

I did mini cheesecakes in a muffin tin and they turned out lovely. One itty bitty problem I had with the recipe was that there is quite a bit of butter in the crust and that was kind of tricky to deal with after baking, it was kind of gooey at first, and then when the extra butter cooled, it hardened and stuck to the pan and cooling rack, not a big deal though.

My only substitution in the recipe was to use sour cream instead of heavy cream -- nothing against you heavy cream, please don't worry, sour cream will never replace you in alfredo, but I wanted that extra little tang from sour cream in the cheesecakes. For my topping I did a salted caramel sauce with cashews, I can't remember where I first saw a caramel cashew cheesecake, I think it was a Taste of Home recipe -- or possibly a restaurant menu...either way, it turned out delicious!

On to TWD... I was of course a little nervous about the chocolate pastry cream but it turned out lovely. My substitutions in this recipe include using skim milk instead of whole and to using semisweet chocolate. This was a wow dessert, I didn't expect to really like it, but when it's all put together -- the chocolate tart crust, the chocolate cream, the whipped cream on top -- this is one amazing little chocolate number!

I think I'm safe saying this is my favorite chocolate treat we've made with TWD. Wait, I forgot about those chocolate cupcakes last October, this might be a tie. Chocolate isn't my favorite 'flavor,' but I did completely fall in love with this tart, I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I used semisweet instead of bittersweet chocolate. I've tried quite a few recipes with bittersweet chocolate and it's just not for me, I guess I'm not 'grown-up' enough :) Below photo is the crust being prepared in the food processor, I found that I needed to add a few tablespoons of water to get the crust to a proper consistency.

My fridge was a hang-out for mini desserts waiting to be completed yesterday...

Yum! Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Granola Breakfast Cookies with Maple Walnut Granola

This week for Sweet Melissa Sundays, Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen picked Granola Breakfast Cookies for us to try. The recipe for these cookies uses another recipe in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, Cherry Almond Granola. That granola sounds delicious but has a few ingredients that I could not find locally, so I decided to try a granola recipe I noticed at The Michigan Maply Syrup Association site for Maple Walnut Granola. I had been browsing maple syrup recipes since we have a TON of maple syrup and I wanted some new ideas to use it with. I like to make my own granola and am always up for a new recipe. Granola is a really simple snack to make, and to make it even easier I use a tabletop roaster oven -- those big ones that are for sale everywhere around Thanksgiving, that rarely get used after Thanksgiving. I love to use it for making double batches of Chex Mix for my husband (his favorite treat), granola, and anything else that needs to be baked at a low temperature for a long time and stirred throughout baking.

Maple Walnut Granola
Michigan Maple Syrup Association

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup sesame seeds (this was an interesting addition to granola for me, thank goodness I bought big jar of them from Sam's Club)
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup oil (I used 1/4 cup canola oil)
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup honey

My extra additions after baking, I read that you should add your dried fruits to granola after baking so they don't get dried out :

1 and 1/2 cups dried cherries
1 and 1/2 cups golden raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine oats, wheat germ, sesame seeds, coconut and nuts.

Add oil and stir until evenly distributed. Pour in maple syrup, stirring well.

Add honey and mix until well moistened and mixture is crumbly and sticky. Spread in a large shallow pan. Bake 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally for even browning until mixture is golden brown and dry. Cool and store in airtight container.

That's it for the granola, really easy! You can find the cookie recipe on Jessica's beautiful site -- A Singleton in the Kitchen, give it a try, I hope you will love it as much as we did! My only change to the recipe was to add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Baking them on insulated cookie sheets will make sure they stay soft and chewy.

These cookies were really easy to make, but a little difficult to photograph, they aren't the prettiest cookies, but they sure are delicious! How could you go wrong with whole wheat flour, dried fruits, coconut, wheat germ, oats, walnuts, and sweetened by Mother Nature with molasses, honey, and lovely maple syrup?

Before and after baking...

I will be making these cookies again for sure and can't wait to experiment with different add-ins, although I must say I think they are perfect as is with the Maple Walnut granola, my favorite granola cookie for sure. This is a wonderful recipe and our whole family enjoyed these yummy cookies :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Kitchen My World -- Turkey

Time for My Kitchen My World's second country for April -- Turkey! There are so many delicious sounding Turkish recipes on the internet that I had a hard time deciding what to make. I love eggplant and pistachios, so when I saw this recipe for Turkish Rice Pilaf with Eggplants and Pistachios, I knew I would have to give it a try.

Turkish Rice Pilaf with Eggplant and Pistachios
from Ashbury's Aubergines

1 pound eggplant (2 or 3 small, 1 medium)
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup rice, preferably basmati (or some other aromatic, long-grain rice)
1 medium onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried dill (or 1 tablespoon fresh dill)
1 teaspoon salt
1 whole tomato, peeled and chopped, or 7 to 8 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
16 to 19 ounces canned chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled

Trim and discard stem end of eggplant. Cut unpeeled eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes and place the cubes in a colander. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of salt, tossing the eggplant to coat it evenly with the salt. Set in a sink to drain.

Put the rice in a large bowl and fill the bowl with water. Swish the rice around and drain it. Repeat several times until the water runs clear. Cover the rice with water and set aside.

Chop the onion into 1/2-inch dice. Combine in a large saucepan with olive oil and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened.

Rinse eggplant well with running water and press it firmly in a cloth towel to squeeze out excess moisture and dry it well. Add it to the pan and increase heat to high.

Cook eggplant and onions together, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain the rice and add it to the pan.

Chop raisins a little (don't be too obsessive about it) -- I love that the recipe author tells you not to be too obsessive :) -- and add them to the pan with 1 1/2 cups water, cinnamon, dill and 1 teaspoon salt. Put the top on the pan, lower heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes, or until rice is tender and the water is absorbed.
Meanwhile, peel and core tomato, then chop into 1/2-inch dice. Five minutes before the rice is cooked through, add tomato and chickpeas and stir gently to combine. When the rice is done and the dish is heated, spoon into a serving bowl or onto individual plates. Top with pistachio nuts.

Makes 2 to 4 servings as a main dish, 6 servings as a side dish.

I thought this was nice little lunch dish, I loved the flavor and texture combinations, there was a lot 'going on' in this dish. As for changes, I had to add more liquid for the rice to cook though, and left out the onion. I look forward to trying some more Turkish recipes, I bookmarked quite a few while finding this one. Be sure to visit My Kitchen My World and see what delicious dishes everyone else picked for Turkey :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Parker House Rolls -- Tyler Florence Fridays

The first time I noticed a recipe for Parker House Rolls was in a Taste of Home cookbook years ago and I was drawn in by the butter and milk dough and how pillowy soft and fluffy they looked. I never did try that recipe, but I'm happy to report that Tyler Florence's version is just as delicious as I'd imagined Parker House Rolls to be. This is now our standard roll recipe and everyone loves them. Even though this isn't a "bread machine recipe" -- I have to note that I've also tried this recipe in the bread machine starting on the dough cycle and finishing baking in the oven with wonderful results, which makes these perfect rolls even easier to prepare.

Tyler's Parker House Rolls
from Stirring the Pot

3 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing rolls
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Combine yeast with warm water and the sugar in a kitchen stand mixer bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to dissolve and activate yeast. In a small saucepan heat 6 tablespoons of the butter and the 1 cup whole milk over low heat; stirring occasionally until butter melts. Add the milk mixture to the yeast. Using the hook attachment on the mixer, fold in the bread flour and salt. Gradually add all-purpose flour to make a dough. (Add only enough all-purpose flour as you need, the dough should come together in a ball that is neither too wet nor too dry.)

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead five to six times until dough is smooth and elastic (do not overwork dough or rolls will be tough). Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place for approximately 1 hour until the dough had doubled in volume.

Butter a 9x5 inch baking dish. ( I used a 9 by 13, can't picture how they would turn out in a 9 by 5) Form the dough into 12 to 14 equal-sized balls. Arrange the balls in the baking dish so they are in rows just touching one another, then cover with a layer of plastic wrap, then the towel.

Set aside to rise again. Once they have doubled in volume again (about 40 minutes)

Use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip the tops of each bun twice, forming an "x". Set aside for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 (I did 350). Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the rolls with milk. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let the rolls cool in the pan for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a rack. Serve with butter.

Results and Changes: These tasted wonderful and were easy to make, I especially liked the little "x" cut on top, I'd never done that with rolls before. I did drop the baking temperature to 350 and they were perfectly done at 20 minutes. We all loved these, they make great little sandwich buns and are great with butter and jam or honey for breakfast :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Croque Monsieur -- Barefoot Bloggers

Thank you to Kathy of All Food Considered, who picked Ina's Croque Monsieur as our second Barefoot Bloggers recipe for April. Croque Monsieur is pretty much a French style ham and cheese sandwich. I looked around on the internet to see if there were any vegetarian versions and got ideas to just leave out the ham and make three versions of this sandwich (really just adding an extra ingredient)...apparently a Croque Provençal adds an herbed mayonnaise and tomato, and a Croque Hawaii adds pineapple, how fun! I am a huge pineapple fan and when I google image searched a Croque Hawaii and saw a photo of one with a cute little maraschino cherry on top I just had to add that to mine :) If the pineapple and cheese combo sounds a little off to you, think pineapple on a cheesy pizza.

I made two loaves of our favorite French bread recipe to use for these sandwiches, which turned out really well. I halved the recipe and had three large sandwiches.

Ina Garten's Croque Monsieur

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread.
Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes.
Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Results: These were one of the richest foods I've ever tasted. I could barely eat one half of a sandwich. They were delicious but oh my goodness, just so rich! I had heard of Croque Monsieur sandwiches before but never had one because they are usually served with ham. I was happy to finally give this decadent lunch treat a try, and really like the pineapple and tomato additions and love any excuse to buy gruyere.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chocolate Bread Pudding -- Tuesdays with Dorie

A huge thank you to Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle, she selected Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding for this week's TWD treat. I have to admit that this was a recipe that caught my eye on my first flip through of Dorie's book, before I had any idea who or what Tuesdays with Dorie was, and had no idea about the gorgeous food blogs and fun bake along events that live on the internet. Why did this catch my eye? Am I a huge chocolate fan? Nah, I like chocolate but it's not my favorite. Am I a huge bread pudding fan? Nope. Don't really like anything custardy or eggy. I don't know. I think it was the photo in the book, or maybe that when I read through the ingredients Dorie suggest Challah -- which is probably my favorite bread, or maybe that my mom has always loved bread pudding and it reminded me of her in a warm homey sort of way. And even though it really caught my eye, I doubt I would have ever actually made it, just because it's not really my style, and that would have been a shame, because this is one amazing dessert!

Challah is "my bread," I've always loved it, and love making it. It's kind of like my signature dish, people are always excited to have "my bread" when I am hosting a dinner or party. And as soon as dinner starts, people start claiming any of the loaf that might be left over. It's fun, I love when people enjoy what I make. Here are a couple challah making photos...

So I was happy to make a giant Challah loaf to turn into this bread pudding, this was my second challah this week!

I read on the TWD site that maybe there was a lot of custard, so after halving custard part of the recipe, I upped the bread a little (6 ounces would be called for in a half recipe, I used 9 ounces of bread).

For the custard I used skim milk instead of whole (since that's what we keep in the fridge), but kept the cream, and as for the eggs, the I used 1 whole egg and 2 yolks, one half of the recipe as written except for an extra half egg (which I didn't even bother with, I thought I would appreciate a touch less egg in the finished product). I used golden raisins and semisweet chocolate, baked in an 8 by 8 glass dish for 40 minutes. Yum!

The photo above is before baking.

Even if this wasn't the prettiest dessert and was hard for me to photograph, as delicious as it was, it was totally worth it :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mini Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling

This recipe was picked for Sweet Melissa Sundays by Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, thanks Tracey! You can visit her site for the recipe. I know it's already Monday and I'm a day late, sorry! This past week has been a whirlwind, we had our first ER visit when my daughter accidentally broke her snow globe and cut her hand and needed stitches, and I also hosted a double birthday brunch at our house, talk about a wild week. When I joined Sweet Melissa Sundays I fully intended to bake every recipe (and post on time!) so I feel really bad that I missed last week's Brooklyn Brown-out Cake (which I WILL make) and was not going to let myself miss two weeks in a row even if I had to post late. I hope you guys can understand!

When I saw that Tracey had picked this recipe for us to try I was really excited, caramel apples, turnovers, and ricotta are some of my favorites. My husband is also a huge caramel apple and turnover fan, ricotta, not so much. So what I did was halve the ricotta mixture and instead of making big turnovers made little ones (9 little squares cut into one puff pastry sheet).

Three of the turnovers were caramel apple and ricotta and six were just caramel apple. For the apples I cut the quarters into tiny thin squares (I was going for apple pie consistency) instead of the 1/4 inch dices, and I also subbed brown sugar for white sugar. I was reaching in the pantry for the 1/4 cup of sugar called for and as I passed the brown sugar I decided that would be great for a little extra flavor depth.

Before and after baking...

I baked them at the suggested 375 on an insulated baking sheet for 20 minutes. I had set the timer for 25 minutes, but when I checked at 20 they were perfect. We absolutely loved these, the cinnamon sugar on the egg wash on top was a great touch. I was so happy to try this recipe and I'm sure we'll be making them again :)

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