Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New York Cheesecake

To me, this is the single best cheesecake I have ever had.  I discovered this in Jim Fobel's cookbook about 20 years ago, and it is the one I return to again and again.  It is creamy smooth, lightly sweet, with a touch of lemon.  This cheesecake has become the favorite of family and friends who've had the good fortune to be served this slice of heavenly goodness.

Ordinarily I don't serve a topping because it is so good, but for those of you who like a cheesecake with a little something, I opened up a can of blackberry pie filling and put a nice dollop on the top.  I do this for you.

You may have noticed that this cheesecake does not have any kind of crust, neither bottom or sides. 

You may also have noticed that there are no cracks in the top.  That is because this cheesecake is baked in a bain-marie, a water bath.  This is one of the secrets to a truly creamy cheesecake.

You'll need advance planning to prepare this recipe, but if you do, I believe you will fall in love with this recipe as much as I have.
In the comments section, there has been some discussion about the leaky springform pan dilemma.  You have been kind enough to share a number of solutions, but a reader sent me a really good sounding solution that I want to include here. 
Brandy G. says:   I too have suffered from water leaks into my crust however I started using crock pot liners instead of foil. The liners accommodate the pans perfectly and withstand the overheat. I just roll the sides down some so they are not over the cake and voila!  It has saved so many cheesecakes...I hope it helps others too!  
Now doesn't that sound like a nifty solution!

New York Cheesecake
(Jim Fobel's Old-Fashioned Baking Book)

5 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups (one pint) sour cream, room temperature
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Generously butter the inside of a 10-inch springform pan.  Wrap a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil tightly around the outside bottom and sides, crimping and pleating the foil to make it conform to the pan.  This will help to prevent water seeping into the pan when you put it into the bain-marie.  Position the baking rack in the center of the oven; preheat the oven to 300* Fahrenheit. 

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sour cream until well blended.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese with the butter until smooth and creamy.  Add this to the egg-sour cream mixture and beat until smooth. 

Add the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest and beat thoroughly, about 2 minutes. 

Pour into the prepared springform pan and place in a roasting pan (or other pan) large enough to prevent the sides from touching.  Place in the oven and carefully pour in enough very hot tap water to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake for 2 hours, 15 minutes, or until the cake is very lightly colored and a knife inserted in the center emerges clean.  Remove from the water bath and carefully peel the aluminum foil from around the pan.  Let stand at room temperature until completely cool, about 4 hours.  Refrigerate, covered, until well chilled.  For best flavor and texture, this cheesecake is best chilled overnight.

**My Notes:  I can't stress enough how important it is to let those first 4 ingredients in this recipe come to room temperature.  I've hurried the cream cheese and have had unsightly lumps of it in my batter. 

**I've italicized the mixing instructions to emphasize blending the ingredients to achieve the desired texture.

** Have a platter or other large dish that will hold the hot and drippy springform pan after you remove it from the bain-marie.  When you remove the bain-marie from the oven, the water is very hot, so please exercise extreme caution.

Before removing the roasting pan, have a plan on where you are going to set it so you are not holding the pan, desperately searching for a clear space to set it down.  I find it impossible to remove the cheesecake from the bain-marie while it is in the oven, so I remove the entire set-up from the oven.  I make every effort not to burn my wrists or the back of my hands while removing the springform pan; I haven't been burned yet, but I have soaked the edges of the potholders in the hot water, and it's amazing how fast that steaming water is wicked up to my tender fingers!

**When you first remove the cheesecake from the oven, it looks light and puffy, and there may be some hairline cracks in the top.  Do not despair.  As the cheesecake cools, it will gently deflate and the hairline cracks disappear.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Julekake ~ Norwegian Christmas Bread

Sweetie-Pi's sister Susan is dating a man of Norwegian heritage.  Lloyd is a gentleman of courtly old world manners and demeanor, and when I say he is one of the sweetest men whom I have ever met, I do not exaggerate.  He is gracious and soft-spoken and a pure delight. When he smiles, his blue eyes sparkles and you can feel his heartlight beaming bright.   So when we were invited to their house for Christmas for an overnight stay, I wanted to do something a little special with him in mind. 

I am not familiar with Norwegian cooking and I do not have any friends who are either, so I had to rely on the internet.  As I often do, I turn to Allrecipes.com where recipe reviewers rate the recipe and often add a personal note of an ethnic recipe's authenticity.  A couple of reviewers said this recipe was much like the one in their own family archives, so I was encouraged and heartened to try.

My, my, my is this good.  Cardamon was an unknown spice to me (mainly because it can be expensive and it is not used in the typical recipes I make and I didn't want to invest in a spice that I was unsure I'd enjoy), but now I am addicted to it.  It is fragrant (almost flowery, but not) and sweet (unlike cumin or turmeric which I consider to be savory and hot).  The bread has a nice sweetness to it, but is not cloying.

You can see from this picture that this is not a tall loaf, and that initially troubled me, but once I stopped to consider that these loaves are made in a cake pan, I realized that they should be above even with the tops of the cake pan when fully baked.  Also, the directions say to allow the bread to double, approximately one hour, at both rises.  On the second rise, the bread had not doubled at the end of one hour, and I actually let it rise for two hours.  It still didn't really double, but I put it in the oven, and it finished rising as it baked.  I think the added weight of the fruit slowed the rising.

And what did Lloyd think.  Well, he took a slice and ate it.  Asked for a second slice and ate that.  He took a third slice.  "Reminds me of my mother," he said. 

Jukekake ~ Norwegian Christmas Bread
(found at Allrecipes.Com)

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115*Fahrenheit)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup raisins (I use dried currants)
1/2 cup diced citron or mixed candied fruit

Grease two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water.  Add the sugar, egg, butter salt, and cardamon and 2 cups of flour.  Mix well.  Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.  Add the raisins (currants) and the citron.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; divide in half.  Shape each portion into a flattened ball and place one ball in each of two greased 9-inch round baking pans.  Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Bake at 350*F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pans to finish cooling on wire racks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ginger Tea

I recently went to the library and borrowed a book about superfoods and their purported health benefits; one of the superfoods mentioned was ginger root.  At virtually the same time, after renewing my health insurance benefits, I learned that my premiums were going to increase $200 a month (I won't even tell you how much my employer is contributing, but let me say it's nearly four figures!!), and then through sheer serpendipity my long-time dear friend Jane mailed me these adorable gingerbread men mugs  (as well as several other sweet gingerbread men themed gifts.  I can't say enough how much I love them).  Anyway, signs and omens tend to come to me in groups of three and I took this as a sign to wake up and smell the ginger root.

Did you know that ginger root has a long history of being healthful with healing qualities?  Me neither.  Gnger root has been used to alleviate the inflammation of arthritis; nausea caused by pregnancy, indigestion and chemotherapy; migraines, menstrual cramps; upper respiratory infections.  Wow, huh?  All this goodness in a wonderful, delicious, aromatic tea.  I know I feel better just holding warm mugfuls of this golden drink and breathing it in.

Ginger Tea
(bookedmarked for over a year by One Perfect Bite)

8 cups water
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 lemon or lime, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup dark honey
In a medium sized pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add ginger and lemon. Cover pot and let sit for 20 to 40 minutes. The tea becomes stronger the longer it steeps. Strain. Stir in honey. Serve hot or cold.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cranberry and White Chocolate Biscotti


I just love the idea of cranberry and white chocolate; they look so festive appropriate for the season.  I took these to the office as a treat, and my workmates gave them a big thumbs up.  The flavor is much improved the second day, and  if stored in an airtight container, these biscotti will last several days. 

White Chocolate and Cranberry Biscotti

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cranberries
**1 1/2 teaspoons dried orange peel (my addition)

In a mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.  Combine flour and baking powder gradually add to creamed mixture.  Stir in cranberries and vanilla chips (and orange peel if using) .

Divide dough into three portions.  On parchment-lined baking sheets, using your impeccably clean hands, shape each portion into a 10" x 2" rectangle.  (It may help you to slightly dampen your hands to shape the dough.)

Bake at 350*F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Transfer loaves to cutting board; using a serrated knife cut into diagonal 1-inch slices.  Place cut side down onto baking sheet(s) and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Remove from oven, cool on wire racks.  Store in air-tight container.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Easy and Delicious Refrigerator Dinner Rolls

Holiday dinners do not seem complete without fresh, hot dinner rolls.  There is something about their yeasty fragrance mingling with other holiday aromas that beckon you to the kitchen, enticing and teasing.  They are a promise waiting to be fulfilled.

This no-knead dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to four days and they make some of the lightest, most flavorful, pleasantly sweet,  rolls you've ever tasted.  I have used this recipe for ages and have yet to find one that I like more.  This recipe makes 24 rolls, but you do not have to use the dough all at once, so you can have fresh, hot rolls for several days in a row.

To have ready for your meal, allow time to roll and form the dough and rising time and then time for baking, (generally allowing an hour for rising time, depending on how warm your kitchen is).

I made this recipe twice this past holiday.  For the family holiday, I had taken the dough out 90 minutes beforehand, to form and to raise the dough, but at the end of an hour when the dough needed to go into the oven to bake, the rolls were only three-quarters risen in the pan.  In desperation, I went ahead and baked them anyway, and thanks to the heat of the oven,  the rolls finished rising fully and beautifully. 

The second time I made them, I took the dough out 2 hours ahead of time, formed them, and allowed them to rise.  This time they started to over-rise.  I put the pan of risen rolls back into the refrigerator to slow them down and took them again when it was time to bake.  The rolls did not over proof, and once again, the rolls were gorgeous and light.

The original directions say to use a 9 x 13" pan and make 24 rolls.  However, I found that the middle rolls remained doughy and needed an additional 5-10 minutes of baking time.  I have had much better success using 2" inch high x 9" round cake pans and making 12 rolls in each pan.  I think they would be gorgeous baked into cloverleaf shape in muffin pans as well.

Refrigerator Dinner Rolls
(makes 2 dozen rolls)

1 cup warm water (105* to 115* F)
2 packages active dry yeast (not instant)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may need more or less depending upon humidity)
additional melted butter for brushing on finished rolls, if desired

In a large bowl, combine the water and yeast and let the mixture stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the butter, sugar, eggs and salt. 

Beat in the flour, one cup at a time until the dough is too stiff to mix.  Cover and refrigerate anywhere from 2 hours or up to 4 days.

Grease a 13" x 9" baking pan.  Turn the chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 24 equal-sized pieces.  Roll each piece into a smooth round ball.  Place balls in even rows in the prepared pan.  Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 375* Fahrenheit.  Place rolls in the oven and bake until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Brush the warm rolls with melted butter, if desired.  Break rolls apart to serve.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple Syrup

Have you ever mentioned that you didn't like something, say Brussels sprouts, and that person would listen thoughtfully and say with great self-assurance, "Well, you'd like the way I make it."  

I have yet found that to be true.  There is no way you can pretty up tofu or okra, for example, and make me believe that I like it.

Ole Sweetie-Pi loves bacon.  He loves maple syrup.  He positively loathes Brussels sprouts.  There is not enough bacon or maple syrup on the planet to make him think he is going to eat  those gorgeous green globes of goodness.  Me, however, I love them, and I really loved them served like this.  The maple syrup added just a perfect amount of sweetness, and who doesn't love the salty goodness of smoked bacon.  Total YUM!

I found this recipe on the Boston Globe  and as far as I'm concerned, it's a keeper. 

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple Syrup

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 400* Fahrenheit.  Have a large rimmed baking sheet (cookie sheet) on hand, set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with the remaining ingredients and spread the mixture in a single layer on the baking sheet. (It might be helpful to line with a sheet of tin foil for easier cleaning afterwards.)

Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning several times, or until they are tender and caramelized and the bacon is crisp.

NOTES:  I made this for Thanksgiving Day, and because I have only one oven and was using it for other baked goods as well, I did not "roast" at the suggested temperature. I just put the ingredients (minus the salt as I felt the bacon would be salty enough) in one of my oven to table dishes and baked at 350* Fahrenheit for 45 minutes, along with other dishes I had going.  I did not get the deep caramelized color or the bacon crispy, but the wonderful flavors where there, and I was able to have everything ready at the same time. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chicken Pizza Bake

Back in the day, I used to work part-time as one of the bakers in our local super Wal-Mart.  Behind  the biparting doors was the incessant, loud beeping of the ovens; tall, heavy racks of breads and pastries being rushed about; heavy boxes of frozen dough being broken out and proofed; the clatter of bread pans along stainless steel tables.  There wasn't a lot of time for socializing, just run, run, run, and yet in spite of madness, one of my co-workers, Mary, managed to share this recipe with me.

This recipe is easy, has standard pantry items and is so good!  Ole Sweetie-Pi, who thought he was going to turn his nose up at it (doesn't like the idea of "chicken pizza"), went back for seconds. 

Chicken Pizza Bake

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks**
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes
3 teaspoons oregano**
2 teaspoons chopped parsley**
1 teaspoon onion powder**
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 finely chopped fresh garlic clove**

Preheat oven to 425* Fahrenheit.  Have ready a large casserole, baking dish, or oven-safe Dutch oven.

Place chicken in baking dish.  Combine the remaining ingredients together and pour over the chicken.  Bake, covered,  for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with sliced mozzarella cheese and the pizza toppings of your choice, such as black olives, mushrooms, pepperoni, green pepper, etc. 

Continue to bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

NOTES:  This recipe is quite forgiving and amenable to changing for personal preferences.  There's only the two of us, so I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut up into good sized chunks.  Personally, I'm not a big oregano fan, so I reduced the amount of oregano to about 1 1/2 teaspoons, dried.  I  had fresh parsley so threw in a small handful.  I don't keep onion powder, but I did have dried onion and used maybe a couple teaspoons or so, perhaps more, smiles.  I rarely have fresh garlic, instead keeping those jars of minced garlic and tossed in a half teaspoon, depending on whim and how big I think my clove of garlic is that day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Banana Bread II

This weekend three bananas, mottled with ripeness and oh-so-fragrant,  sat on my counter top.  I knew what I must do with them and yet I could not. 

You see, it's like this.  I cannot tell you how long I've looked for a simple, delicious, banana-y banana bread.  For-evah, I think.  Years, most assuredly.  I won't kid you and say that I've tried dozens of recipes; at the most I've probably only tried half a dozen.  For some time now,  I settled on a recipe that a coworker gave me; it's good, but not quite it.  I know you know what I mean.  Then  I discovered a recipe from King Arthur Flour and while I really like this one with its whole wheat goodness, I've longed for something that, truthfully, is made with white flour, the standard of my childhood. 

I have found my new go-to banana bread recipe.  It's a no-thrills, no-frills recipe, no nuts, no spices, just a little vanilla and lots of banana flavor and deliciously moist.  I think part of the success of this recipe is due to the banana and sugar being combined before the flour is added, giving the bananas and sugar an opportunity to marry and be happy,  and when the dry ingredients are finally added, the banana flavor is well dispersed.

And may I just point out one thing to you?  I am so pleased about this.  My bread baked nice and level, no raised hump with a gaping crevasse down the middle!  I owe this to a hint that I read on one of your blogs.  My apologizes ~  I do not remember who passed along the tip, but I've successfully used it several times, and it is this:  if you are using a dark aluminum baking pan (my are heavy, dark, restaurant quality pans), reduce the heat by 25 degrees Fahrenheit, same as if you are cooking in glass and follow the directions for cooking time.  The dark pans absorb the heat, browning the outside edges faster than the center, causing the center to swell and heave.  So, whoever posted that tip, thank you!

Now, here's the recipe.

Banana Bread
(Simply Recipes)

1/3 cup melted butter
3 or 4 ripe bananas, well mashed
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt (equals about 1/8 teaspoon)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Generously grease and flour an 8" x 4" baking pan and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In a large bowl, mix the butter into the mashed bananas.  Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix well.

Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.

Add the flour, and mix to combine all.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and place in preheated oven for about 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.

Cool on rack.**  Remove from loaf pan before slicing. 

**I let my loaf sit in the pan for about ten minutes and then removed from the pan to allow it to finish cooling on the rack.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apple and Date Turnover

I want you to come to my kitchen just so I may serve you a steaming hot cuppa and a generous slice of this simply outstanding apple and date turnover. Our mouths will be so full with the sweet, cinnamon-y, apple-y, hint of date flavors that there will not be room for words nor will we want anyone to break into our reverie as we enjoy and savor. 

Apple and Date Turnover

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour,  plus extra for dusting
375 gram package all-butter puff pastry **
½ tsp cinnamon
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 pitted dates, finely chopped
25 gram (6 1/2 teaspoons) sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten, for brushing
If you are using frozen puff pastry, allow time for thawing before proceeding and follow the directions on the back of the box for rolling it out. 
Preheat oven to 400*Fahrenheit.  Place a baking sheet in the oven.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll the puff pastry into an 8" x 12" rectangle. 
In a medium sized bowl, mix the apples and dates, 1 tablespoon flour, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.  Spoon over one half of the pastry, leaving a border around the edge.
Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the egg.  Fold the other half of the pastry over the filling, pressing the edges of the pastry together, sealing well.  Slash the top with a knife and brush with the remaining egg.
Place the turnover in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up the pastry and then carefully lift and place onto the hot baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Drizzle with icing if you wish.
**My Notes
Because the puff pastry has to go into the freezer before baking, I used a sheet of parchment paper, floured, as my work surface. By doing so, I was able to move it from the counter, to freezer, to baking sheet.
This recipe is pretty forgiving.  The puff pastry I used came in a 495 gram box (so my rolled out pastry was larger than 8 x 12; I didn't measure it, but the length equaled the length of my cookie sheet) so I increased the filling amounts.  I used 5 apples (using a mixture of 3 Granny Smith and 2 MacIntosh; my apples were smallish), and increased the number of dates to 8.  I also increased the flour to 2 tablespoons, and the cinnamon to 1 rounded teaspoon.  After sealing the edges, I trimmed them with a knife to neaten it up. 
I used a simple confectionery sugar glaze:
Mix together:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Gradually add
1 tablespoon milk, a teaspoon at a time
Continually stirring until desired consistency is achieved.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread

Hello.  My name is Katy.  I stalk Coleen's of Coleen's Recipes recipes.  Virtually everything she makes I want to make too.  I can't help myself. 

This is another of her keeper recipes.

Oh my word, Coleen wasn't understanding the adjective moist when she described this delicious bread. It is super-moist!  I loved the seasonal use of ingredients, pumpkin and cranberries, as well as the generous use of spices.  No one miserly teaspoon of cinnamon here!

I only did a couple of things differently.  One I cut up the cranberries before adding them to the batter.  Two, I froze the second loaf for later.  No sharing.  Mine, mine, mine.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread
(Coleen's Recipes)

Grease and flour two 9"x5" loaf pans and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350*F.

Have ready two large bowls.  In the first bowl add and whisk together until well blended:

3 cups all purpose flour
3¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoon salt

In the 2nd bowl, mix until well incorporated:
3 cups granulated sugar
(1) 15 ounce can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup orange juice
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (added separately)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with spoon until just moistened.  Gently stir in the cranberries.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pans and bake 60-65 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cook in the pan for about ten minutes then release from the pans and turn them out.  Wrap the hot bread immediately in plastic wrap, covering tightly, allowing the bread to cool completely in the wrap.  This is the secret to making this bread super moist!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

English Muffin Toasting Bread

I woke up Saturday morning with every intention of making Eggs Benedict for breakfast but first I wanted to make an English muffin batter bread.  I rely on a favorite recipe from King Arthur Flour, and when I goggled it, I saw that they had another version, this time using instant yeast and not active dry yeast.  Immediately I was intrigued, and as I have both types of yeast in bulk, on hand, I chose the (new to me) version.

Let's just say that the Eggs Benedict were never made.  The aroma of the freshly baking bread woke up Ole Sweetie-Pi from a heavy sleep, and he came downstairs to see what all the good smells were about.  He virtually pounced on the still steaming loaf as I set it on a rack to cool, cut two thick slabs, toasted them, and slathered on melting butter. 

English Muffin Toasting Bread
(King Arthur Flour)
Makes one 8 x 4 loaf

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

In a large bowl, combine and whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and yeast.

In a microwavable container for your microwave or using a small saucepan  for your stove top, combine the milk, water and oil.  Heat until temperature reaches 120*F to 130*F.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Beat at high speed for one minute. (see my note)

Scoop the dough into the pan, and level as best as you can, you may have to pull or stretch it a bit.  Cover the pan and let rise in a warm place about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough rises approximately 1/4 inch over the rim of the pan.  Remove the cover.

Preheat your oven to 400*F and bake the risen dough 20-22 minutes, until it's golden brown, sounds hollow when it's thumped, or has an internal temperature of 190*, if you are using a thermometer.

Remove the loaf from the pan and place on a rack and allow to cool thoroughly. 

The recipe at the KAF website describes this dough as soft and scoopable.  This was not my experience and as a result mixed the dough with a large spatula and quickly kneaded it. There was no way I was going to be able to use a mixer for this dough without burning out the mixer's motor, smiles.  I read through some of the comments by other reviewers and saw that someone else had the same experience and the response was that perhaps too much flour was used because the baker just scooped the flour, not fluff and sprinkle and level into their measure.  Guilty.  I scooped and leveled, but did not aerate the flour first by fluffing it and sprinkling the flour into the measuring cup.  Live and learn.  Bread was still good though, smiles.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Broiled Grapefruit

I think I should be embarrassed to post this, but when I served this for breakfast this morning, Ole Sweet-Pi said he had never in his life seen a broiled grapefruit.  At first I thought he was kidding, because this is something that we'd have on rare occasion when I was growing up, but when he sincerely insisted he had never seen this, I thought, naturally, photo-op!

There's not really a recipe for this.  Just a how to.

Broiled Grapefruit

Preheat your broiler.  Cut one ripe grapefruit in half (for 2 servings).  Using the point of a sharp knife, gently cut completely around the grapefruit between the fruit and the rind, and then cut between the fruit and the membrane that separates the sections of the grapefruit.  Sprinkle the top with a couple teaspoons of brown sugar.  Place in a baking dish and broil about five minutes or so.  Place a maraschino cherry in the center and serve while warm.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parsnip, Apple and Thyme Soup

When I was youngster, creamed corn was about the only vegetable I'd ever eat.  I never grew tired of it  and when entreated to try something new, I would practically convulse at the thought. And heaven knows I'd never eat parsnips or even try them. Never. Parsnips were something that my grandmother ate (she also ate tripe and pickled pig's feet, so, in my mind, she was not exactly a reliable taste tester).

Time passed, I've made a conscious effort to "grow up" my taste buds and  I have learned to appreciate the cruciferous vegetables, greens, gourds, root vegetables, but parsnips escaped me until much later.  And now?  Well, I've acquired a taste for them, and quite frankly they'll never be a favorite, but they are so good for you that I keep trying them.  If you've never tried them, they look a lot like carrots in shape, though they're creamy white.  To me they taste somewhere between a carrot and a turnip--they have a natural sweetness like a carrot but have a more assertive flavor akin to a turnip.  

One of my favorite blogs is The English Kitchen.  Marie is a transplanted Canadian now residing in England, and she is discovering English cooking and sharing her delicious results and discoveries.  Her blog is beautifully photographed and written; everything she prepares looks delicious.  And it was there that I found this recipe for parsnip, apple and thyme soup.  I hope you take some time to peruse her blog and maybe even try this soup. It reminds me of the soups I've tried from Campbell's Select soups.

(from The English Kitchen)

1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon medium curry powder
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
3 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 large cooking apple, peeled and chopped (I used 3 small Granny Smiths)
5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup cream
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive, croutons and some fresh thyme leaves as garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and curry powder. Cook and stir over medium low heat until the onion softens.

Stir in the parsnips, apple and thyme sprig. Cook and stir to coat in the oil and spice. (You may need to add a bit more oil). Add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the apple and parsnip is quite soft.

Puree until smooth with a stick blender or in a blender in small batches, taking care to cover the blender so you don't get burned. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to the pot and stir in the cream and heat through.

Serve hot, ladled into heated bowls. Top each serving with a drizzle of olive oil, some croutons and some thyme leaves.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chicken with Lemon Sauce

Chicken and lemon has to be one of my favorite all-time pairings, and this recipe did not disappoint. While I didn't love it as some of the other reviewers on Allrecipes.com, I did like it and would certainly make it again. (This recipe is still my favorite, but eeks, all those delicious calories!)   It's pretty quick and easy,  has lots of flavor, and lots of eye appeal.  The crust on the chicken is a beautiful golden brown; the lemon sauce  is nicely flecked with parsley.  The sauce that ran into the broccoli did wonders for the broccoli.  Yum!

Chicken with Lemon Sauce
(from Allrecipes.com)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved **
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 eggs **
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried  parsley

Flatten chicken to 1/4-inch thickness.
In a shallow bowl, combine 4 tablespoons flour, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Dip chicken into eggs; coat with flour mixture.

In a large skillet, cook chicken in 1 tablespoon butter and oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining flour, salt and pepper; add broth and stir until smooth.

Add apple juice to the skillet you cooked the chicken in, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Stir broth mixture and add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.

Stir in lemon juice; cook for 1 minute. Add parsley and remaining butter; cook and stir until butter is melted. Serve over chicken.

Recipes says it serves 2, but I would say it serves 4, giving each person one half of the chicken breast.  

NOTES:  I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and skipped flattening them as they are already pretty thin.

No way did I think I needed 2 eggs to dip the chicken in; reduced the amount to 1 egg and it was more than adequate.

The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley;  I substituted 1 teaspoon dried and it worked fine.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Skillet Lasagna

Who doesn't love a good lasagna?  Who has the time to make one during the week?  It has been a low energy week and pasta was in order and I was craving lasagna.  I just needed some carbs to help boost me out of the doldrums and I'll tell you what, this pasta dish made me and Ole Sweetie-Pi smile big!  Even after the dishes were put away, he was remarking how much he liked this; so this is going to be a keeper. 

The recipe describes itself as a skillet lasagna, and I can understand the designation, but to me this is more an Uptown American Chop Suey (or Goulash, depending on where you live). I think I just like to see my lasagna in nice layers, cut in even squares, smiles. Whatever you call it, it is good, filling, and makes enough to feed a small community.

What drew me to this recipe is that the raw pasta is cooked in the juice from the diced tomatoes.  The tomato juice was absorbed into the pasta as it cooked, giving additional flavor and nutrition, no tomato juice tossed down the drain, no waste.  I loved the big pieces of tomato in this.  The other surprise for me was the red pepper flakes.  I don't know if I've ever used red pepper flakes in a tomato sauce, but they added a bit of welcomed heat and flavor. 

Cook's Country Skillet Lasagna
(Food.com )  

1 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes plus enough water to make one quart

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
salt to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound ground beef **
10 curly edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces **
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce **
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, divided
ground black pepper to taste
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Pour tomatoes with their juices into 1 quart liquid measuring cup. Add water until mixture measures 1 quart. 

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground meat and cook, breaking apart meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes. 

Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta, cover, and let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve.

Recipe says this serves 6, but I think it could easily serve 8, especially if you're serving with a nice salad and garlic bread.

**Okay, now my changes.  I used 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (skins removed and meat broken up; I think the sausage adds a lot of nice flavor.).  I didn't have lasagna noodles but I did have bow ties.  I had about half a box left so I used whatever was remaining in the box.  I didn't have tomato sauce, so I substituted with 3 tablespoons of  tomato paste, which, to me, gave a deeper tomato flavor, as well as helped to thicken the sauce, and it's a substitution I will do when I make this again. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Date Nut Bread

When was the last time you made a really terrific date nut bread?  For me it has been ages and then it was from a boxed mix (blushes), probably Dromedary (do they even make that anymore.  I haven't even thought to look).

It was pure happenstance while perusing the Boston Globe's food section that I saw this recipe for Date Nut Bread.  I had some dates left over from an earlier enterprise (The Wedding Appetizers, see previous posts), and it was about time, I decided,  to try making date nut bread again.  The author  of the article persuaded me when she stated this is a family favorite, and I can, without hesitation, confirm that it is now a family favorite here as well.  This moist,  sweet ( from honey and brown sugar),  chewy (from the dates), crunchy (from the nuts) delectable bread is my go to date nut bread. 

Date Nut Bread
(From the Boston Globe)

1/2 cups chopped, pitted dates
1 cup boiling water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts

Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 325* Fahrenheit.

Place your chopped dates in a large bowl and pour the hot water over the dates; let sit for 2 minutes.  Add the butter, honey, and brown sugar, and mix gently until the butter is melted.  Mix in the lightly beaten egg and the vanilla.

In a separate, smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the date mixture and stir until just blended.  Mix in the walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and place in the preheated oven.  Bake at 325* Fahrenheit for about 65 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove from the pan to a cooling rack to finish cooling. 

**Note:  My loaf was was not done at the end of 65 minutes.  I had to cover with aluminum foil and bake for another 12 minutes.  Even then I thought the loaf was still a little too moist, so I shut the oven off, left the aluminum tent on the loaf and let it sit in the cooling oven.  After about 20 minutes or so, I checked on it again, and the loaf was cooked perfectly. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wedding Appetizers - Part IV

Well, this is the final installment of the Wedding Appetizers.  When I was preparing all this food, it didn't seem like a lot, but in retrospect WHEW!  No wonder it has taken me a week to recover (smiles) but it was all worth it.

Bacon and Tomato Cups

One thing I learned while researching appetizers is that if you have one of those mini tart pans, wontons and/or a reliable biscuit recipe and a wooden tart tamper, there are innumerable appetizers that you can make.  I saw a hundred good ideas from mini tacos, lasagnas, pizza, salads, mousse, pates, you name it or if you can dream it, you can have an appetizer tray that will leave people talking and eating and wanting more. 

I chose these for a couple of reasons.  I wanted to have diversity in the color, shape, and ingredients in my appetizers.  Also I thought they would work well served at room temperature (they were good but warm would have been better, I think) and because I wanted to avoid the sog factor (remember I had to travel three hours from my house to the wedding destination). 
Bacon and Tomato Cups

8 slices bacon
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise **
1 teaspoon dried basil
Your favorite biscuit recipe or 1 (16-ounce) refrigerated biscuit dough**
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease a mini muffin or mini tart pan.  (I used baking spray).
In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until evenly brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Crumble the bacon into a medium bowl and mix with remaining ingredients.

Separate the biscuits into halves horizontally and place each half into the cups of the prepared tins.  Fill each half with the bacon mixture.
Baked for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Made 24 mini tarts.

**As luck would have it, I did not have an ounce of mayonnaise in the house so I used an equal amount of  ricotta cheese.

**I'm not a big fan of refrigerated biscuit dough so I used a single recipe of  my favorite homemade biscuits and used a walnut sized piece of dough in each mini tart opening.  The wooden tart tamper is a wonder for this!  If  I remember correctly, the time was a little short, and I ended up cooking these an extra 3 or 4 minutes to get a desired level of golden brown on the biscuit.  

Meatballs in Wonton Cups
No real recipe here, more of a how-to. 
Have ready your favorite meatballs, rolled into mini size,  all cooked and waiting.  

Place wonton skins in each cup of a mini tart pan. (Or you could use biscuits again, yum!)  You'll probably have to ruffle them in to make them fit into the cups, but that only adds to their appeal.  

Place a meatball into each cup.  Add a couple of teaspoons of your tomato sauce, a sprinkling of cheese, bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes or until the wontons are nicely browned.  I confess, these did not travel well; the bottom of the wontons were a little soggy by the time I served them, but guests were delighted to see something they recognized and there weren't any left.

I confess, I loved this!  As a matter of fact, I love it so much that I made it again after I came home so I could have a bowl of it all to myself; Ole Sweetie-Pi doesn't like cranberries so I this is all for me, smiles.  If ever you want something special to serve on bagels, this is it.  I can't stay away from it.

However, regrettably this did not go over well at the reception.  Perhaps it's because it's a spread and people didn't want to have to stop and fuss with it, perhaps it's just not good with crackers, perhaps because it's a little on the sweet side and doesn't go with alcohol, perhaps because it something that folks  didn't recognized (like onion dip)  and they were reluctant to try it.  Whatever, the reason, I had almost half of it left over.  Oh, well, live and learn.

Cranberry Delight Cream Cheese Spread
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons concentrated orange juice, thawed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
1 orange, zest only **
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (can be omitted if you want it less sweet)
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Mix cream cheese, juice concentrate, cinnamon, and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Fold in the orange zest, pecans and cranberries. Cover and refrigerate.

**I didn't have  fresh orange zest, but what I do keep on hand is the dehydrated orange peel you can find in the spice section of your grocer's shelves.   I added 1/2 teaspoon and it was delicious.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wedding Appetizers - Part III

Here's the third installment of the wedding appetizers I brought.  I hope you find something you'll like and enjoy for your own gatherings and celebrations.

Cheddar Cheese Crackers

I'm an avid fan of Ann of  Thibeault's Table.  Really, have you ever seen her photos?  Magazine quality all of them.  And her food...well, let me tell you, I drool every time I visit there.  I've had this recipe bookmarked almost a year, waiting for an occasion worthy enough to make them, and they were worth the wait.  These worked up so easily, I'm not going to wait another year to make them. I made the dough up ahead of time, wrapped in waxed paper and wrapped again in aluminum foil.  I double the batch and made four rolls of dough, squaring off the edges.  These aren't crispy like Cheese Nips, for example, more cookie-ish in texture, but perhaps it's because they were frozen and defrosted. 

Cheddar Cheese Crackers

1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 cup  butter
3/4 cup  grated aged cheddar cheese
freshly ground black pepper (a couple of good twists)
cayenne pepper (about  a 1/4 teaspoon)
mustard powder (about a 1/4 teaspoon)
4-6 tablespoons cold water as needed to make the dough come to a ball

Heat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix by hand or add flour and butter to food processor and pulse to cut in butter.  Add seasonings and pulse until just before dough comes together.  Add cheddar cheese and pulse again; add water one tablespoon at a time, processing in between until dough leaves the side of the processor bowl.  Roll dough out to desired thickness.  about 1/8" for crackers, 1/4" for cookies.

Cut into squares or rounds.  Bake until golden approximately 15 minutes. (I turned mine over partway through baking to brown both sides of the cracker.)

Makes about 3 dozen crackers.

Cheddar Cheese Thumbprints with Hot Pepper Jelly

Now this is another keeper recipe from Megan's Cookin'.  I swear, I just love her cookin'!  The minute I saw these I knew I had to try them.  I didn't get to try one of these, a fact which greatly aggrieves me, but I know that those who tried them loved them.  I made two different flavors for the center, sweet hot red pepper jelly (but I bought that jelly) and I made an apple-jalapeno jelly, which is a long time favorite of mine. 

Cheddar Thumbprints with Hot Pepper Jelly

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup flour
1/3 cup hot pepper jelly

Place cheese and butter in a food processor; add flour and process until the mixture forms a soft dough. Gather up the dough and divide into two flat disks. Wrap in wax paper and freeze until chilled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat to 400° Fahrenheit.

Using 1 teaspoon dough for each, roll the dough into small balls and place 1 inch apart on  parchment-lined sheets. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Using the handle of a wooden spoon,  poke an indentation in each cookie. Place 1/4 teaspoon of the jelly in each indentation, or enough to fill.

Return to the oven and bake, switching the positions of the sheets from top to bottom halfway through baking, until the tops are very lightly browned, about 10 minutes. (Cookies will continue to crisp as they cool.) Transfer to racks and cool completely. Recipe makes about 20 cookies.

Can be baked up to two days ahead. Store at room temperature in an airtight container and separate layers with wax paper.

Jalapeno-Apple Jelly
Hot and sweet,  yet cool and creamy. I love this jelly!  I can't tell you how many times I've made this over the years.  It's always a favorite.

I used this jelly to fill a second batch of the cheddar thumbprints, above.  I had visions of drippy jelly on dress clothes, so I chose not to use it as a dip this time.  However, the first time I had this jelly, it was served on cream cheese and buttery crackers and it is delicious! 

You can make the jelly hotter by leaving in some (or all if you really love hot stuff!) of the jalapeno seeds.  I think I probably left in about one-quarter of the seeds and it was plenty spicy hot for me. And remember to wear gloves when working with jalapenos.  I didn't and my hands burned for several hours afterwards.  Not fun!

Jalapeno Apple Jelly
5 cups sugar
2 cups water
8 large tart apples -- chopped (I always use Granny Smiths)
15 whole jalapeno -- chopped (and seeded, if desired)

Pour sugar into a heavy 5 quart  pot; stir in water until well blended. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Pare and core apples; cut into small chunks, to make about 8 cups.Thinly slice or chop the peppers. Add apples and peppers to sugar-water mixture. Cook (boiling gently) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 35 to 40 minutes or until preserve is thickened and apples are translucent. 

Meanwhile, prepare 6 half-pint canning jars (sterilize according to standard canning directions). Fill jars to within 1/8 inch of rim. Wipe clean and place lids and rings on screwing on as tight as comfortable. Let cool on a towel out of a draft; then press lids with your finger. If they stay down, they're sealed. Label and store in a cool, dark area. If not sealed, store in refrigerator. 

Makes 6 half pints

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wedding Appetizers - Part II

Now's here's a couple of appetizers that I didn't try but only because I rarely eat fish, and when I put on my big girl pants and try again, it's merely to take a sample to ensure reaffirm, yep, I don't like fish.  However, because I'm that kind of girl, I will prepare fish and seafood for others but I have to rely on the taste buds of others to tell me whether or not something is good.  Hence, Allrecipes.com and Food.com (formerly Recipezaar) have become a valued resources for me in trying new recipes.  People can be pretty honest in their opinions if a recipe is delicious or not.  Here are two that were very well received, definite 4 star if not 5 star quality.

Salmon Dip

2 cans shrimp **
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, plus 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon horseradish
2 teaspoons ketchup
2 teaspoons dill weed

Prepare one day in advance:  In a medium sized bowl combine all ingredients. (The original decorations don't say to, but I roughly chopped the shrimp.)    Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Ordinarily, I think this dip is probably served with crackers, but I wanted something a little more festive looking and I didn't want the guests to have to scoop and possibly spill.  As a base for the dip, I used English cucumbers, sliced about 3/4 of an inch thick and dolloped a good teaspoonful or so of the dip on each slice, topping with a whole piece of shrimp.  In retrospect, I think it would have been nice to slice the cucumber peel off in strips, to add just a wee bit more color and visual appeal, and perhaps a sprig of fresh dill as well. 

**I don't like the flavor of canned shrimp so I used a one-pound bag of frozen baby shrimp and eyeballed the amount to use, reserving perhaps one quarter of the shrimp to use as a decorative touch.

This had to be the prettiest of the platters that was put out.  Ole Sweetie-Pi's oldest daughter Erin was the artist for this platter, and when she was done we all oohed and aaahed over it.  The colors completed each other, the presentation was appealing and delicious looking; this platter was among the first to be emptied.

Smoked Salmon Spread

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened **
12 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 drops hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill weed
2 tablespoons chopped green onion

At least one day ahead, in a medium bowl, stir cream cheese until it is no longer in a hard form. Add salmon, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, dill and onion; mix well. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.  Typically served with crackers,  I served this in  baked wonton cones.

**I reduced the amount of cream cheese in this to one 8-ounce package but followed the remainder of the recipe.  The salmon flavor really stood out, but you may want to add more cream  cheese for your tastes.

The baked wonton cones are pretty easy to make with a little time and patience.  Purchase a package of wonton wrappers (usually found in the refrigerated vegetable section of your grocers, with tofu and such) .  Preheat your oven to 350* Fahrehenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place a wonton wrapper on a work surface with one corner facing you,  roll into a cone.  Gently stuff a ball of crumbled tinfoil into the open end.  Place seam side down and bake for about 15 minutes, checking maybe at 12 minutes to see how they're coming along.  You can also use those fancy metal cone molds used for Italian pastries, or even paper cones.  The cones are fragile but can be stored a couple of days in an airtight container until ready to use.

The Elsea Family Salami Roll-Ups

I should be ashamed of myself for including this appetizer at Liz and Jerrad's wedding.  Liz had given everyone dire warnings about "no redneck" foods and these salami roll-ups easily fall into that category.  However, these roll-ups were a favorite of the matriarch of the family and have been included in nearly every family event since the 1960's when they were first introduced to the Elseas; on tradition alone these could not be omitted.

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10-ounce) jar sweet red pepper relish
1/2 pound (or so) sliced hard salami

Mix the cream cheese and about three-quarters of the sweet pepper relish together until well combined.  The mixture will be lumpy but try to make sure that there aren't any big lumps of cream cheese remaining.  Spread the mixture onto a slice of  salami and roll up as a jelly roll.  Hold together with a toothpick. 

Thank you, Sweet Erin. Your gracious help was invaluable!  Hugs!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Appetizer Wedding

My, my, my.  It has been quite some time since I've been here. However, Ole Sweetie-Pi's youngest daughter, Elizabeth and her husband, Jerrad, had a breathtaking  wedding vow commitment ceremony (they had eloped some 3 months earlier, little sweetie rascals!)  in the seacoast town of Cape Neddick, Maine, that I was honored to be asked to participate in. Would I make cold appetizers, Elizabeth asked.  I would be honored! I answered.

From that moment,  I had spent every available minute (and brain cell, it seems) in scouring the internet and my cookbooks for delicious, unique, and portable appetizers.  I was challenged by distance (3  hours travel time one way) and not having  the comfort of my own kitchen for last minute preparation work. A flurry of support, encouragement and ideas from my long-time dear friend Jane, and blogging friends, Coleen of Coleen's Recipes, Ingrid of 3B's...Baking, Baseball and Books and Rhiannon Nicole of Hey Gorgeous poured in and kept me sane.  Thank you, ladies, I owe my success in large part to you!  Hugs!

So where to start.  I brought eight items; some where more favored than others (which always happens doesn't it) and a couple where a surprise it.  I'll break these down into two or three posts to keep them reasonable short.

This was a huge surprise.  I made the bacon-wrapped dates more as an afterthought because I thought I hadn't made enough food (!) and wanted something quick and easy.  Little did I know just how delicious they are.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Dates wrapped in bacon.  No recipe really needed for these, just an explanation of method.  Take a whole pitted date (I made a mistake of buying dates with the pits still in them, but they were still wonderful) and wrap half a slice of bacon around the date.  Place the wrapped dates on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake in a 350*F oven for about ten minutes, seam side down, turn the dates over, and bake further until the bacon is cooked, turning as necessary.  Be careful, these get mighty hot and should be served barely warm or at room temperature.  I think with a  pound of bacon I made 32 wrapped dates, but I could have done another whole batch and I believe all those would have been eaten as well. Guests were just in awe of these sweet and salty morsels.

Chevre Cheesecake with Biscotti Crust
(from my esteemed blogging friend, Megan's Cookin')

If you ever want a unique and elegant appetizer, you must try this recipe!  Oh my gosh is it lovely.  When I explained to guests that this is not a sweet but is a savory cheesecake, (savory is so much nicer with champagne, grins) they couldn't wait to try it, and this rich cheesecake enthralled those who tried it.  I made this in two 11 x 7 inch pans because that's the pan sizes I have.  Megan makes hers in a tart pans, which I think is a much prettier pan, but in my little country city (an oxymoron!) tart pans of this size are not available. We don't have an Italian bakery here, so I made the biscotti from scratch (that recipe to follow).

6 ounces soft butter
1-1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup biscotti crumbs
1/2 cup ground walnuts

2 cups cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup goat cheese (chevre)
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat over to 325 degrees. Place butter, confectioners' sugar, flour, walnuts and biscotti crumbs in a 5-quart mixing bowl with a paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.

Press the dough into pan(s), being careful to press the dough evenly on the bottom and sides of pan. Place pan(s) in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the dough to set.

Place cream cheese and goat cheese in a 5-quart mixing bowl with paddle attachment and beat on low speed until incorporated. Add eggs one at time until incorporated. Add sugar, rosemary, and salt. Mix for one minute.

Remove pan(s) with crust from the refrigerator and pour the batter into the pan(s). Place in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick or cake tester. The toothpick will be clean and the cheesecake will not be fluid. If the batter is still runny, turn the oven off and allow cake to remain in the oven until firm. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Two Kinds of Biscotti

It seems I forgot to take a picture of the finished biscotti, so I can only provide you with a picture of part of the baking procedure. Here I had baked it once and sliced it in readiness for the second bake. I made two different kinds of biscotti, one for the crust for the chevre cheesecake, and the second to dunk into coffee or wine, or simply to enjoy.  The biscotti, though different,  looked similar, so I never did take a picture of the second recipe.  Here are the recipes.

(King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook)

This recipe is the first biscotti I ever made and is still my favorite and is the recipe I used for the Chevre Cheesecake, above.  

1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 (1 ounce) bottle (equals 2 tablespoons) anise extract
3 eggs
 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, plus 1 teaspoon water (beaten together for egg wash)

Preheat your oven to 325* Fahrenheit.

Combine the sugar, baking powder, butter and eggs.  Blend in the entire bottle of extract and then the flour, one cup at a time. Remember that flour can absorb whatever moisture is in the air so on a humid day you may have to add a little more flour to your dough.

Spoon the dough onto a greased cookie sheet (I use parchment) to form two longs 1 1/2 inches wide by 1 inch high.  to shape the logs, wet your hands and pat the top and sides of the dough.  Brush the logs with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove them from the oven and cut the logs diagonally into slices, 1 inch thick, to produce cookies.  turn the cookies on its side and rebake at the same temperature for an additional 15 minutes.

The second version of biscotti I baked is a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com.  It contains brandy and almonds, and is definitely a more "grown up" biscotti.


2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons anise extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almonds
2 tablespoons anise seed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil.

In large mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine brandy, anise extract and vanilla in a small bowl or measuring cup. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Alternately add dry ingredients and brandy mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the almonds and aniseed.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto prepared sheet, forming two 2 x 13-inch long strips on each sheet. Smooth dough into logs with moistened fingertips.

Bake about30 to 35 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. Place cookie sheets on racks and cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Cut cooled logs on the diagonal into 3/4-inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Place slices on cookie sheets.

Bake for about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes, until dry and slightly brown. Remove to a rack and cool.