Thursday, April 30, 2009

Herbed Cauliflower with Capers & Lemon

I was looking for something interesting to do with cauliflower (there seems to not be very many recipes out there actually, at least those where the cauliflower is not covered in cheese - which is delicious but not something I want to eat all the time) and came across this recipe in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. The sauce is yummy but I think I'd double it next time (except for the oil). But how I liked eating this cauliflower best was making a salad with it using quinoa, feta, cranberries and walnuts. Because of the sauce on the cauliflower you don't have to add any sauce and it's yummy all mixed together!

I'm going to start posting more pictures of our awesome cat, Abby. Because, well, she's awesome, but also because I love seeing pictures of other food bloggers' pets so I want to share mine too! Not surprisingly, as a cat she really loves bags and we like to take advantage of this by carrying her around in them. (This picture is my boyfriend carrying her, well attempting to, until the bag broke.)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cauliflower Gratin
Spinach Balls
Caribbean Roasted Vegetables
Wild Rice Almond Cherry Pilaf

Herbed Cauliflower with Capers & Lemon
Adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook

1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp drained capers, rinsed and minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium cauliflower head (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets

1. Combine the parsley, basil, capers, lemon juice, oil and salt to aste in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

2. Steam or boil the cauliflower until the florets are tender, about 7 minutes. (Ashley note: The recipe recommends boiling the cauliflower but I always prefer steaming vegetables.)

3. Drain the cauliflower and toss with the herb sauce in a large bowl. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flaky Croissants & My 201st Post!

I just finished putting together a massive 50 something page report from my term long project at school. So incredibly happy that's complete! I was thinking my reward should be some new cookbooks, don't you agree? Anyway, now I finally have time to post about these amazing croissants! I meant to post them as my 200th post but then lost track so now this is my 201st post! Croissants seemed like something big enough for such an occasion. They're something I've wanted to make for a long long time. Well I think they're something that most bakers want to make at some point, if they haven't already.

I'm so happy with how mine turned out. I thought they'd be really difficult to make, but they're actually not - it's just time consuming. And they're not even that time consuming. You just have to be around to do the turns every hour or so for a few hours once the dough is made. The thing I was most scared about was preparing the butter. I thought it would be impossible to roll out butter but it actually went okay. I used half the dough to make 16 little croissants (and ate at least half of them!) and have the rest of the dough in my freezer. I want to try out some of the recipes in Carole Walter's book that use the croissant dough.

While I'm really happy I made croissants and really happy with how they turned out - so flakey and buttery - I'm not sure that I'd make them again. Most baked goods are so much better when baked at home, and these croissants were really good, but I think I'd rather buy 1 or 2 when I'm craving one. I meant to take more process photos but kept bringing the camera over and forgetting to actually take a picture. There's a couple of pictures below in the recipe though of the sponge and the finished dough.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Golden Cinnamon Loaf
Soft Pretzels
Honey Pecan Sticky Buns
Caramelized Apple Danish Braid

Flaky Croissants
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

Makes 3 pounds dough, enough for 32 small/mini croissants

2 cups milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled

1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm (I used European butter.)

4 cups unbleached flour, spooned in and leveled (I used 540 g.)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1/3 cup milk, for brushing croissants
1 large egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon of water, for egg wash

The sponge.

Make the sponge:
1. In a 2 quart saucepan, warm the milk to 110F to 115F. Stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Do not stir. Cover the pot and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Stir it briefly with a fork, cover again, and let it stand for 5 minutes longer, or until the yeast is bubbly and dissolved. Using a small whisk, stir in the flour. It's okay if the mixture is somewhat lumpy. Cover and let stand until the sponge has doubled in size, 25 to 30 minutes or more as needed.

Prepare the butter:
2. Sprinkle a cool work surface with 1 tablespoon of flour. Unwrap the butter and lay the bars side by side on the work surface. With floured hands, push the bars of butter firmly together to form a solid mass. Sprinkle the top of the butter with one more tablespoon of flour, patting it over the surface with your hand. With a floured rolling pin, roll the butter into an 8 inch square, using the additional 2 tablespoons of flour as needed. Cover the butter with plastic wrap and place it on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate while you prepare the dough.

Make the dough:
3. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On low speed, mix briefly to combine. Add the 2 tablespoons of soft butter and mix for 30 seconds. With the mixer off, add the sponge to the bowl, then mix on low speed until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is fairly smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Do not over mix.

Encase the butter:
Note: For the butter to be rolled through dough, ti is essential that it be pliable. It is ready when it has reached the same degree of softness as the dough. Then it will roll smoothly through the dough.

4. Place the dough on a lightly floured, cool work surface and gently knead for six to eight turns, or just until smooth. Pat the dough into a 6 to 8 inch rectangle and let it rest for 2 minutes.

5. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12x16 inch rectangle with the 12 inch side parallel to the edge of the counter. Center the block of butter on the dough. Bring the lower portion of dough up and over to the middle of the butter, then fold the upper portion over to cover the remaining butter, firmly pinching the seam together. You will have a 1 to 2 inch margin of dough on the right and left side. With your thumb, press these edges thoroughly together to seal them.

Make the turns:
6. Give the dough a quarter-turn clockwise. Roll the dough lengthwise into a rectangle measuring about 21x12 inches. Flip the dough over, brushing off the excess flour as needed. If the butter seeps through, seal it by brushing the exposed butter with a light coating of flour. When the desired size is reached, fold the dough into thirds, letter style, making sure all the edges are even. It's okay to gently stretch the corners to even the block. Enclose the dough in plastic wrap, place it on a cookie sheet, and chill for about 1 hour. You have now completed the first turn.

7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn it so the open seam is to your right. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 21x12 inch rectangle. Fold into thirds, stretching the corners as needed. You have now completed two turns. Wrap and chill again for 20 (or 60) minutes.

8. Repeat the procedure two more times, giving the dough a total of four turns. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, making the package airtight. Chill for at least 6 hours, or up to 3 days. If you wish to freeze the dough, be sure to deflate it first.

Shape the croissants:
9. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Line the baking sheets with parchment.

The finished dough before being rolled out.

10. On a cold, lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into quarters using a dough scraper. Working with one quarter at a time, roll the dough into a 16x8 inch strip. Turn the dough so the 16 inch side is parallel to the edge of the counter. Angle the bottom right hand corner outwards and the upper left hand corner outwards to form a parallelologram. This will enable you to shape the croissants without wasting the ends. Pierce the dough with a fork at 1 inch intervals to prevent it from shrinking.

11. Lay a ruler against the long side of the dough closest to you. Make three light indentations in the dough, spacing them every 4 inches. Lay the ruler against the opposite side and repeat, starting at the left side. With the indentations as a guide, cut the dough into eight triangles, using a pizza cutter or a dough scraper. At the wide end of each triangle, cut a 1/2 inch knick using the pizza cutter or dough scraper.

12. Stretch the corners of the wide end of the dough outwards slightly and begin to roll the dough. After you roll about one third of the way up the triangle, begin to stretch the tip outwards with the opposite hand that you are rolling with. Continue to roll the triangle, making three complete turns. Place the croissant on the prepared pan, making sure that the tip of the croissant is on the bottom. Curve the ends of the croissant to form a crescent shape so the widest part of the arch is at the top and the tip is underneath. Continue working with one quarter of the dough at a time, making thirty-two croissants.

13. Brush the tops and sides of the croissants lightly with milk, and place in a warmish spot to rise until puffy and almost doubled, 45 to 60 minutes. Brush the croissants again with the milk two or three times during this rising time.

Bake the croissants:
14. Fifteen minutes before baking, position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 400F. Gently brush the tops of the croissants with the egg wash, working from the bottom upward. Do not drip the wash onto the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake for 10 to 12 minutes longer, or until golden brown. Place on a rack to cool. To ensure even browning, toward the end of baking time, rotate the pans top to bottom and front to back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chickpea Cutlets with Mustard Sauce

I'd heard about these chickpea cutlets for quite some time and I really wish I hadn't waited so long so make them! They're really tasty and chewy. I made mustard sauce to go with it (which had a very strong mustard flavour that I loved) and that was delicious but you could eat them on their own too, or in a sandwich. Mmm. I'll be making these again for sure, and maybe I'll try out different beans. And double the recipe, so I can freeze some.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Sunflower Rice Bowl
Middle Eastern Chickpea Soup
Artichoke Rotini Pasta

Chickpea Cutlets
Adapted from Veganomicon

Makes 4 cutlets.

My modifications were to use 1 tbsp oil instead of 2, whole wheat bread crumbs, and 1/2 tsp sage instead of 1/4 tsp. And I also used regular paprika instead of Hungarian - not sure what the flavour difference is. You can either bake or panfry these - I chose the baked option, and she recommends you brush both sides of the patty with oil, which I didn't do.

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable broth (she says you can also use water)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated with a microplane grater
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried sage

Preheat the oven to 375F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas together with the oil until no whole chickpeas are left. (Ashley note: Really try to mash this well.) Add the remaining ingredients and knead for about 3 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed.

Divide the cutlet dough into four equal pieces. To form the cutlets, knead each piece in your hand for a few moments and then flatten and stretch each one into a roughly 6x4 inch rectangular cutlet shape. The easiest way to do this is to first form a rectangular shape in your hands and then place the cutlets on a clean surface to flatten and stretch them.

Place on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip patties and bake another 8-10 minutes until firm and golden-brown.

Mustard Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.

This is more than enough sauce for this amount of chickpea cutlets so you could easily halve the recipe for mustard sauce, unless you want to have extra.

2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sherry cooking wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp capers (with brine)

Mix the cornstarch with the vegetable broth in a measuring cup and set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, saute the garlic and thyme in the olive iol for about a minute.

Add the wine and soy sauce, and raise the heat to high. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat to medium and simmer, to reduce for about 4 minutes. Add the vgetable broth mixture, mustard, lemon juice, and capers. Stir often, using a whisk. Once the sauce is bubbling, lower the heat to low and simmer for about 3 minutes. The sauce should be on the thick side.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Orange Cream Cheese Muffins (with Pepita Crunch)

This orange cream cheese muffin is absolute muffin perfection. The cream cheese flavour is prominent, and the muffin is so so perfectly dense and deliciously yummy. I'm even going so far as to say it's one of my favourite things I've ever baked. It's like cheesecake meets a perfect moist dense white cake. I wasn't a fan of the pepita crunch though so next time I'll just sprinkle coarse sugar on top instead (or nothing at all). My pepitas were over toasted and had kind of a weird taste that really took away from the muffin. While I've loved almost everything I've made from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More, the overly complicated instructions still kind of bother me. But considering how well most things turn out, they must be worth it!

I just got Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions (and wow are there some exciting interesting things in it! Can't wait to try the recipes.) I was reading about what she considers room temperature butter, and it's quite different from what I've always done. So I'm just curious - what do you use for softened/room temperature butter? How soft do you let it get? I think I let mine soften a bit too much.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Lemon Cheesecake
Caramel Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Orange Berry Muffins
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Orange Cream Cheese Muffins (with Pepita Crunch)
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

I halved the recipe. For my halved version I used 150 g of flour, and I used 1 large egg yolk (plus 1 egg) instead of 1/2 an egg yolk (plus 1 egg).

Pepita Crunch
1 large egg white (reserve yolk)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/2 small navel orange, cut into 6 to 8 pieces (zest, pith and flesh)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, broken into 3 to 4 pieces
2 cups all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserved from pepita crunch)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Make the pepita crunch:
2. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Add the pumpkin seeds, tossing to coat well with the egg/sugar mixture. Pour into the prepared cookie sheet and spread evenly in a single layer. Sprinkle 1 more tablespoon of the sugar over the pepitas. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes, stir the pepitas with a fork, and bake for another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Break up any clusters with your fingertips and set aside.

Make the batter:
3. Increase the oven temperature to 375F. Line fourteen muffin cups with paper or foil cupcake liners. I halved the recipe and it made 5 muffins so if you don't want to take out an additional muffin tray just fill your tray up a bit more.

4. Add the orange pieces to the food processor and process until finely chopped. Measure 1/4 cup pulp and return it to the processor bowl. (Discard any remaining orange.) Add the cream cheese and process in three 10-second intervals, scraping down the side of the bowl after each process. The mixture should retain some orange texture.

5. In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

6. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the machine and add the cream cheese/orange mixture, then mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the superfine sugar in a steady stream, then blend in the eggs, the reserved yolk, and the vanilla.

7. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing just until blended after each addition.

Bake the muffins:
8. Portion level scoops of the batter into the prepared pans using a no. 16 ice cream scoop (1/4 cup capacity). Sprinkle the top of each muffin with 1 tablespoon of the pepita crunch. Be sure to use any sugar the remains in the pan.

9. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and the tops are springy to the touch. To ensure even baking, toward the end of baking time, rotate the pans top to bottom and front to back. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Onion and Mushroom Frittata

There's nothing new or earth shattering about this frittata but it was good and we all need meals that are easy, filling and healthy. This was the first recipe I tried from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook, which I've owned for probably a year. When I've flipped through it before nothing has really called out to me but I thought I'd pick a few recipes and see how they were, so we'll see how that goes. If anyone has any recommendations from this cookbook let me know! You can easily use this recipe as a base to make whatever kind of frittata you want. Experiment with herbs, spices, cheese and different vegetables.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Walnut Mushroom Nut Roast
Squash & Aged White Cheddar Tart with Sage and Roasted Garlic Custard
Curried Tofu Salad
Lemon Miso Tofu

Onion and Mushroom Frittata
Adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook

The recipe calls for 2 tbsp parsley but I used only a little parsley and mostly basil. I'd try less oil next time, maybe 1 tbsp. This serves 4 if you eat something else with it (like a salad or some kind of vegetable) but if you want to eat just this then I'd say it serves 2, maybe 3. Also, it says to add the salt and pepper after the mushrooms finish sauteeing but I'd save the salt and add it to the finished frittata, so you can use less and taste it more.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 pound wild, cremini or white button mushrooms, wiped, clean, stems trimmed, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley & basil

1. Heat the oil in a 10 inch nonstick skillet with an ovenproof handle. Swirl the oil to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the mushrooms and saute until they turn golden brown and the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add pepper (and salt if you want) to taste.

3. Preheat the broiler. Use a fork to lightly beat the eggs, cheese and parsley/basil in a medium bowl. Add the egg mixture to the pan and stir gently with a fork to incorporate into the vegetables. Cook over medium-low heat, occasionally sliding a spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the frittata as it sets. Continue cooking until the frittata is set, except for the top, about 8 minutes.

4. Place the pan directly under the broiler and cook just until the top is golden brown and set, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the frittata burn.

5. Invert the frittata onto a large platter. Cut it into wedges and serve. The frittata may also be cooled to room temperature and then cut and served.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chocolate Strawberry Loaf

Even though I have a huge back log of things to post about, I thought I'd post this strawberry loaf so that if it sounds good to you you'll have a chance to try it while strawberries are in season! Mostly I really don't like using fruit in baking, especially precious strawberries. I much prefer eating them fresh and unadorned. But we bought a gigantic container of strawberries from Costco and they really didn't taste so good so I thought I'd take the opportunity to bake with them. Elyse posted this strawberry loaf as if in answer to my strawberry woes! (Speaking of Elyse, go and check out her amazingly spectacular creation - a Samoa inspired cheesecake.)

I modified the recipe a bit - omitting the nuts, nutmeg and lemon, and adding chocolate chips. The loaf reminds me of the very moist banana bread my mom made when I was growing up. And the great thing is you can taste the strawberry! For myself, I wouldn't make this loaf again but my boyfriend wants me to. And it's a great way to use up strawberries if you have too many (not that it's really possible). And yes the loaf did have a pink tinge to it.

If this sounds good, you might like:
Mom's Banana Apple Bread
Candied Maple Walnut Pancake Loaf
Pumpkin Loaf
Banana Crunch Muffins

Chocolate Strawberry Loaf
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

The recipe calls for "mashed" strawberries. I pureed mine to make them less chunky. As mentioned above, my modifications were to omit the walnuts, nutmeg and lemon, and to add chocolate chips.

1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) pureed strawberries
1/2 cup (3 7/8 ounces) vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or spray with non-stick vegetable oil spray) a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the chocolate chips, flour, sugar, soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, strawberries and vegetable oil. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, whisking until well-blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and transfer it to a rack to cool completely, 1 hour or longer. For best flavor and easiest slicing, wrap the bread while still slightly warm and let it sit overnight.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

I immediately fell in love with this chocolate peanut butter cake when I saw it on Smitten Kitchen. Serious drool. I had to make the cake and I had to get Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes! This is the only cake I've made from this cookbook so far but check out The Cake Slice Bakers who are working their way through it, one cake a month.

So is this cake as good as it looks? For the most part, yes. It's a very rich cake, as even my sugar/chocolate addicted sister in law (who I made this cake for) admits. Overall people liked it, but it wasn't a personal favourite of mine. The cake was extremely moist and soft, and really easy to make - though I like my cakes more dense. Both the amount of peanut butter frosting and chocolate-peanut butter glaze might have been a bit too much (as you can see by the mass amounts of chocolate on the top and sides of the cake!) I'd use less next time. And I preferred eating this cake cold.

I'm looking forward to trying other cakes from this cookbook, particularly the triple lemon chiffon cake, maple walnut cake, cappuccino chiffon cake, chai cake with honey-ginger cream, dulce de leche cake, and the Halloween sweet potato cake. And those are just my top picks!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
German Chocolate Cake
Rich Chocolate Cheesecake
Elvis Fluffernutter Cake
Tiramisu Cake

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Peanut Butter Frosting (recipe follows)
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze (recipe follows)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper.

2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula or knife, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. While whisking, heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Friday, April 10, 2009

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

I used to dislike soup but when I started trying to eating healthier, I tried to incorporate more soup into my diet. Over the past couple of years I've only come across a handful of soups that I really enjoyed and this is one of them. And it's healthy. And filling! And easy! AND cheap! You should be convinced by now. It has a really great garlic flavour too. The red and yellow pieces you see are some roasted peppers I added - though I prefer the soup without them.

In addition to not being a big soup fan, I also didn't like beans. Over the past couple of years I've been trying to eat more beans (for protein and because they're so good for you). Black beans were the first ones I came to like, chickpeas I think I'm just used to, but now I've discovered cannellini beans (used in this soup) - delicious and my new favourite!

Other soups I've made:
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Middle Eastern Chickpea Soup
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Beet, Barley & Black Bean Soup

White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

Basically my adaptations were to reduce the oil and salt, and use dried sage (instead of fresh) and crushed fennel (instead of seeds). The only thing I'd change when I make it next time is to maybe use less vegetable broth to make it thicker.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
a few dashes fresh black pepper
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, ground
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked cannellini beans
1/4 tsp sage, dried
1 bay leaf
2 heads garlic, roasted*

In a stockpot over medium heat saute the onions in the oilve oil for 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, and fennel seeds; saute for 1 minute. Add the broth, beans, sage and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Add the roasted garlic and puree in batches in a blender or preferably a food processor.

*To roast garlic: Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350F. Slice off the top of each bulb, just enough to expose the tops of most of the cloves. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for about 30-45 minutes. You know it's done when the cloves are very soft and squishy. (This is my way of roasting garlic - not from the cookbook.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Coconut Shortbread

These coconut shortbread were one of the best cookies I've made ever. Insanely addictive. Just an absolutely perfect shortbread texture (the slightly crisp kind) and the coconut flavour - oh my. If you're a coconut lover, as I am, then you MUST try these. Must must. These are not cookies to be added to your "one day I'll make these list" that many of us have. They're cookies to be made now, and to be shared because if you keep them in your house you'll eat them all!

I baked these two sheets at a time, and the cookies that were on the top first then switched to the bottom spread more than the ones that were on the bottom first then the top. That's one thing I really dislike about baking two sheets of cookies at a time - the cookies often seem to turn out a little bit different. Could be partially due to my smallish size oven though.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Coconut Madeleines
Creamy Coconut Cake
Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake
Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

Coconut Shortbread
Adapted from Bon Appetit March 2004

Makes about 6 dozen.

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (about 3 ounces)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325F.

Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Mix in salt and vanilla. Beat in flour in 2 additions. Stir in toasted coconut. Gather dough together; divide in half. Put each half in a big ziploc bag and flatten it. Chill at least 1 hour. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the bags (you'll likely have to cut the plastic). Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured work surface to scant 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into squares that are about 1.5" (or whatever size you want). Poke each cookie twice with a fork. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until light golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. (Can be made ahead. Store airtight at room temperature up to 1 week.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Golden Cinnamon Loaf

I'm working my way through Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More. Cinnamon breads and loaves always appeal to me so I had to try her recipe for Golden Cinnamon Loaf. While it didn't rise as much as I thought it would (maybe the room wasn't warm enough or maybe that's the way this loaf was supposed to be?), it made a really cute short little loaf with a beautiful cinnamon swirl. I'd say it's a cross between white bread and brioche. I sliced up the loaves and put most of it in the freezer then took a piece or two out at a time and toasted it (sometimes with butter) mmm. While this loaf was really good, I think I'm still on the search for the perfect cinnamon loaf. Mind you the perfect cinnamon loaf for me might be made with brioche and basically like a giant cinnamon roll so maybe you shouldn't listen to me. ;)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Cinnamon Swirl Buttermilk Pound Cake
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Golden Cinnamon Loaf
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

Makes two 8-inch loaves, 8 to 10 servings per loaf.

1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115F)
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks (reserve 1 egg white for egg wash)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 large egg white plus 2 tsp water, lightly beaten, for egg wash
1/3 cup sugar mixed with 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, for filling
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1. Rinse a small bowl in hot water to warm it. Add the warm water and 1 tablespoon of the sugar to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Do not stir. Cover with a saucer and let stand for 5 minutes, swirling the bowl every so often. Stir iwth a small whisk or a fork and cover again for about 3 minutes, or until the yeast is bubbly and dissolved.

Make the dough:
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and salt on low speed. Add the butter and continue to mix until meal-size crumbs form.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the dissolved yeast, milk, whole egg, yolks, and vanilla. On low speed add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix for 1 minute longer, or until a soft dough forms.

Shape the dough:
4. Shape the dough into a ball, the place it in a buttered bowl large enough for the dough to double. Turn the dough a few times to coat it with butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

5. Generously butter two 8 x 3.75 x 2.5 inch loaf pans and line the bottoms with baking parchment. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment.

6. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it into a 6x13 inch rectangle with the 6 inch side parallel to the counter. Brush with some of the egg wash. Remove 1 tbsp of the cinnamon/sugar mixture and set aside for garnish. Sprinkle the dough evenly with half of the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture, leaving a 1 inch border on the top. Starting with the 6 inch side closest to you, roll very tightly to form a cylinder. Pinch the seam together very well and roll the cylinder back and forth three or four times to seal the layers. Place the roll in the prepared loaf pan, making sure the seam is on the bottom. The dough dough does not have to touch the sides of the pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the loaves on the prepared cookie sheet. Cover the loaves with a tea towel and place in a warmish spot to rise until puffy and almost doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

Bake the loaves:
7. Fifteen minutes before baking, position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 350F. Bake the loaves for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and then brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until golden.

8. Remove loaves from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, take the loaves out of the pans and place onto a rack to cool.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cauliflower Gratin

Looking at this picture, I'm not sure if you can even tell what it is. But it's an extremely delicious cauliflower gratin, with a very yummy cream sauce. Growing up my mom often made Alfredo sauce, which I loved, but I'd also like having Alfredo sauce when we went out to eat. The sauce in restaurants was usually different from what my mom made (both were good, usually my mom's was better) and I never realized until I made this what made it distinctly different - the nutmeg. Yes this may be so very obvious to many of you. And yes I have seen nutmeg listed in Alfredo sauce recipes but I had no idea that it contributed that certain flavour. So in conclusion, I am in love with the sauce on the cauliflower, and I've also used it on pasta.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Audrey's Deluxe Mac & Cheese
Caribbean Roasted Vegetables
Squash and Aged White Cheddar Tart with Sage and Roasted Garlic Custard
Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins

Cauliflower Gratin
Adapted from Ina Garten, found on Smitten Kitchen

My only adaptation was to use aged white Cheddar instead of Gruyere. I'd also use more bread crumbs next time (as suggested on Smitten Kitchen). Also, make sure you drain the steamed cauliflower very well otherwise it will water down your sauce.

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated aged white Cheddar, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.