Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuiles - Daring Bakers' January Challenge!

Yes...You know what time it is!

This month's Daring Bakers' challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from "The Chocolate Book" by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

As always, I was on pins and needles waiting for the new challenge to be announced. I'm always excited for a brand new recipe to try. I have to admit - I was so happy to see an easier challenge this month...after all, we did make a French Yule Log last month!! That was quite the recipe...!

This month's recipe for Tuile Cookies wasn't too fussy or complicated. I was able to make them very quickly, and the clean-up wasn't too bad either. You can literally make all kinds of shapes with these cookies...fortune cookies, ice cream cones, piroulines...the list goes on and on. I decided to keep it simple and make pretty little bowls. I filled them with frozen blueberries and added a dusting of powdered sugar. They were FABULOUS!!! The cookies have a wonderful taste. In fact, my husband and I couldn't eat just one!

I used a large icing spatula to form large circles with the dough...on a cold baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. They baked for about 8 minutes. I put the baking sheet back into the freezer between batches. One handy trick was this - Once the cookies are done baking, keep the baking pan on the open oven door while you form them. This will keep the cookies warm while you work on the others. They have to be warm in order to form them into the shapes you want! Be careful, though...they will be hot! A muffin tin also came in handy. The cookies didn't fit all the way down into the muffin tin, but I used them as a guide. I rested one cookie on the top of each muffin form until they hardened. I also only cooked 2-4 cookies at a time.

I hope you like them. ;)

Source: "The Chocolate Book" by Angélique Schmeink
Preparation time:
Batter : 10 minutes, Waiting time: 30 minutes, Baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) - Cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. (Please note: I did not use a stencil. I simply shaped the batter into large circles using an off-sided spatula).

Bake cookies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Friday, January 23, 2009

Steaks with Kalamata-Olive Chimichurri

***WOW...this recipe was amazing! I am a new fan of kalamata olives...they are so yummy! This is one of those recipes that I will no-doubt be making again and again. The chimichurri accompaniment was delicious. And the best part is, I had enough left over to add to our dinner the following evening. I baked a few chicken breasts and topped them with it....YUM! It was just as good the second night! The only change that I made was the cooking method. Brad cooked these on the outside grill, instead of the oven. The red wine vinegar adds an excellent flavor to the yourself a favor, and make this recipe won't be sorry! :)

Steaks with Kalamata-Olive Chimichurri
Source: bon appetit magazine
Recipe by Jeanne Thiel Kelley
February 2009
"Chimichurri, the traditional accompaniment for steak in Argentina, is an olive oil-based sauce with vinegar, parsley, and other seasonings. In Argentina, cattle are grass-fed, and the vinegary relish complements the herbal beef beautifully. The meat is very lean, so it's best rare."

3 tablespoons fruity olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves; 2 thinly sliced, 2 pressed
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh, broken in half
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons water
2 14- to 16-ounce 2-inch-thick grass-fed New York strip steaks
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add sliced garlic, red pepper, and bay leaf. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shallots and sauté until just translucent, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in parsley, olives, and vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon water. Add more water by teaspoonfuls to thin as needed. Season chimichurri with salt and pepper.
DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Rub steaks with 1 tablespoon oil and pressed garlic. Sprinkle both sides of each steak with 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, cayenne, and generous amount of black pepper. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush heavy very large ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) with oil. Heat over high heat until almost smoking. Add steaks. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn steaks and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into steaks registers 110°F to 115°F for rare, about 10 minutes.
Let steaks rest 5 minutes. Thinly slice crosswise. Spoon chimichurri over.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Martha's Lemon-Thyme Green Beans

***Here's another wonderfully easy recipe from Martha Stewart. I served this with a delicious recipe - "Steak with Kalamata Olive Chimichurri", which I'll post tomorrow. These green beans had a great little "kick" from the fresh lemon juice and tasted perfect.

Lemon-Thyme Green Beans
Martha Stewart
Source: Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

Serves 4

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish (optional)
In a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid, bring 1/2 inch water to a boil; salt generously.

Add green beans; reduce to a simmer, and cover skillet. Steam beans, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, 6 to 10 minutes.

Pull lid back slightly, and tilt skillet to drain water from green beans; add lemon juice, butter, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to melt butter. Serve green beans garnished with additional thyme, if desired.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mouth-Watering Mocha Cupcakes

***I was chatting with one of my little sisters, Suzanne, the other day, and she told me about the fabulous Mocha Cupcakes that she was in the process of making. Well, of course I had to get the recipe! She sent it to me via e-mail, and I decided to leave the extra notes that she wrote at the bottom...I thought they were cute...LOL.

Needless to say, these cupcakes really did turn out to be fabulous...and very easy to make! I actually had some buttercream icing stashed in the fridge from the wedding cake that I made last week, so I used that instead of whipped cream. Suzanne bought a jar of pre-made icing to use on hers. Just use your can't go wrong with any kind of icing!

YUM...just look at the inside of that cupcake!

Mocha Cupcakes with Whipped Cream:
Source: "Perfect Chocolate" by Parragon Publishing

2 tbsp instant expresso
6 tbsp butter
3/8 cup superfine sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 cup water
1 5/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Whipped Topping:
1 cup whipping cream
Unsweetened cocoa for dusting

1. Put the coffee powder, butter, sugar, honey, and water in a pan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. pour into a large heatproof bowl and let cool.

2. When the mixture has cooled, sift in the flour and cocoa. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk, then add to the mixture with the egg and beat togerther until smooth. Spoon the batter into the paper cases.
3. Bake the cupcakes in a preheated oven at 350*F for 15-20 minutes.

4. For topping, whisk the cream in a bowl until it holds its shape.

I just had to leave my sister's extra notes below...I thought they were cute. :)

"Okie dokie there it is..... the recipe calls for using the little bitty cupcake tins but i just used the big ones and it made one serving...but I had a lot of battter so they are huge. =] Oh and another note... I used 3 tbsp of instant cappuchino and added about 1/4 of a cup more sugar.. just taste the batter and see if it needs to be sweeter =]"
Thanks again, Suzie for the recipe...I love ya!!!
Here we are at my wedding...I've always liked this shot of us...

Yep...that's us goofing off...haha...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Joel Rubuchon's "Chicken with Mushrooms & Tarragon" - (Poulet aux champignons et a l'estragon)

***Now that the holidays are over (and the wedding cake is finished!), I finally have time to sift through the new cookbooks that I got for Christmas and try out some of the recipes. I present to you...the first one!

As I mentioned before, Joel Rubuchon is the man...he's even been proclaimed the "Chef of the Century." In his wonderful cookbook, "The Complete Rubuchon", he shares a multitude of fabulous French recipes in what some call the "Joy of Cooking" for French cuisine.

This seemed like a great recipe to start with. It's got a classically delicious flavor...not too fussy or complicated but with a complex flavor. I think you'll love this one!***

Chicken with Mushroom and Tarragon
(Poulet aux champignons et a l'estragon)
From: The Complete Rubuchon by Joel Rubuchon

Serves: 4
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 35 minutes

3/4 lb. small white button mushrooms, stem ends trimmed, caps rinsed clean, and drained; quarter them if they are on the large side
2 tbsp. butter
1 free-range chicken, about 3 1/2 lb., cut into 8 pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 4 stems parsley, wrapped and tied in a green leek if possible)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, degermed, and minced
5 shallots, peeled and minced
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (I took a shortcut here and used a can of diced tomatoes)
2 tbsp. minced tarragon

Put the mushrooms in a saucepan with 3 tbsp. water and 1 scant tbsp. butter. Cover, bring to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and save their cooking liquid.

Season each piece of chicken with a good pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. In a Dutch Oven just large enough to hold the chicken pieces in a single layer, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and then 1 tbsp. butter. When the butter foams, turn the heat to low and add the pieces of chicken, nestled against each other. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to brown, turning to color evenly. Add the wine, bouquet garni, garlic, and shallots. Scatter the diced tomatoes and sprinkle 1 tbsp. tarragon. Add the mushroom cooking juice and bring the liquid to a "shiver" just below the boiling point. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

At the end of cooking, add the mushrooms to the pot just long enough to warm them. Sprinkle the chicken with the rest of the tarragon and taste for salt and pepper.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Foodies - Here are "50 Ways to Eat Green"!

***I recently came across the article below in the latest issue of Bon Appetit of my favorites. I've found myself trying to be as "green" as possible lately. I'm "that girl" at the grocery store...the one that pushes a buggy full of filled, reusable grocery bags out of the store. I'm so proud of that, though. It never fails, every single time that I check out, someone comments about how neat and great it is. In fact, it happened just today as I was leaving the store. On a recent grocery trip, one lady even told me that I had inspired her to start using reusable grocery bags. I sure hope so. I think that's awesome. You may remember THIS post a while back about reusable bags. Do you use them yet???

What are you currently doing to help our planet?
Be sure to click the links below for more info! :)
From Bon Appetit magazine:
"50 Ways to Eat Green"
The Bon Appétit Guide to Cooking Up a Greener World
By Hugh Garvey
Photography by Craig Cutler and Kana Okada
January 2009
If only eating green were as simple as going to a farmers' market, buying organic, and reusing that shopping tote at the grocery store. That's a darn good start, but there are so many other ways to shop, cook, dine out, and even clean that can have a more meaningful impact on our environment. The 50 tips and recipes here will help cut down on landfill, pesticide use, overfishing, and the consumption of fossil fuels. They will also slow down the depletion of the ozone layer, encourage the humane treatment of livestock, improve the welfare of workers, reduce toxic chemicals in your home, and likely make you healthier along the way. Plus, you'll be making and eating some amazing food. (Like an environmentally friendly Bison Burger). Read on to learn how to cook up a greener, more delicious future.

42. Bag It

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Introducing: My First Wedding Cake!!!!

I know I've been a little MIA for the past week or so...but, I've got a good excuse...I promise! I recently got the opportunity to bake my very first wedding cake. And let me just tell was quite the undertaking! I've never done it before, so I did a lot of research into the whole process. After all, I couldn't imagine anything worse than having the cake topple over mid-reception. But, I am ecstatic to report that there were absolutely no cake mishaps. I even did okay working with fondant for the first time. I was nervous about that too...I hadn't worked with it before, but it looked easy enough...kind of. After over 20 hours of reading, mixing, tasting, rolling, stirring, zesting and baking...I ended up with the fabulous four-tiered concoction that you see here. I got the design idea from Wilton. In fact, we bought almost all of the supplies from the Wilton aisle at Michael's Arts & Crafts.

I started on Monday, with a test cake. The result was good, but a little plain and a tad dry. I decided to try again on Tuesday night with another test cake. But this time, I added fresh lemon zest and lemon juice. The cake just needed *something*. The lemon was PERFECT! I think it added a fantastic flavor....definitely not just another wedding cake. The buttercream icing recipe that I used was equally great. The best part about the icing was that it was pretty easy to make. And get this...I made 16 batches of icing on Tuesday, that isn't a typo....SIXTEEN batches! LOL. I was quite literally up to my elbows in buttercream. I can think of worse things to be up to my elbows in, though...LOL.
On Wednesday night, I made the top two tiers. I also frosted them and added the ribbon & fondant. On Thursday night, I made the bottom two tiers, frosted them both, and added ribbon & fondant to one. I ran out of time and had to add the fondant to the last tier on Friday night. I had to have most everything done before Friday evening, because we had to attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on Friday night. I was the queen of multi-tasking at this wedding...I was the cake baker, a bridesmaid, and I even took some wedding photos. It was a busy day, but it was so much fun!
At the end of the day, baking a wedding cake takes an incredible amount of time and patience. However, seeing the finished cake was overwhelming...I had NO idea that I was capable of such a feat. It was such a great feeling seeing it all set up at the reception hall. Hopefully, this won't be the last one that I bake. I LOVED the entire process! :)
Look at all those ingredients!!!

Rolling the fondant...

Adding the fondant to the cake...who knew a can of yams could be so helpful?

Top two tiers completed!

I did a test run the night before the wedding day...just to make sure it wouldn't topple over!

Putting it all together at the reception...

Classic White Cake
6 cups cake flour sifted
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 egg whites
***Zest & juice from 4 lemons
Cake Release
Makes: 12 cups of cake batter.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease bottom of pans and line with waxed paper or parchment paper, or use Cake Release. (Click here for complete instructions on preparing baking pans.)

Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest & juice. Mix well. Set aside. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Set aside. With mixer at slow speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternately with milk. Beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Pour into prepared pans. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Buttercream Icing
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk
Makes: About 3 cups of icing.

(Medium Consistency)
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.
For Pure White Icing (stiff consistency), omit butter; substitute an additional 1/2 cup shortening for butter and add 1/2 teaspoon No-Color Butter Flavor. Add up to 4 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk to thin for icing cakes.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hershey's "Especially Dark" Chocolate Cake

***We recently celebrated my wonderful husband's birthday...on Jan. 2nd. We had a fantastic day and a GREAT dinner with our family and friends that night. And by now, you know that it isn't a birthday around here without a delicious, homemade birthday cake. I started asking Brad what sort of cake he wanted about a week before the big day. He took some time to think it over and finally decided on a dark chocolate cake...his favorite kind of chocolate! I remember seeing the recipe below for the perfect cake...conveniently located on the back of the Hershey's "Special Dark" cocoa package. And besides, I had already made the milk chocolate version several times with great results. You may remember THIS post from a while back, of Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. And perfect it was!

The best (and really only) change that I made to the recipe was substituting 1 cup of freshly brewed coffee for the 1 cup of boiling water that's called for in the recipe. The result was a fabulously rich and decadent cake. If you are a coffee-lover, I highly suggest doing the same thing! It certainly wasn't simply added a nice flavor to the final product.***

Hershey's "Especially Dark" Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water (I substituted 1 c. hot coffee...see my notes above!)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

"Especially Dark" Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
Melt the butter. Stir in cocoa.

Add powdered sugar alternately with milk, beating to spreading consistency.

Makes about 2 cups.

Source: Hershey's Kitchens (also on back of "Special Dark" Hershey's Cocoa package)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Delicious "Outside-In" Bacon & Swiss Burgers

***Happy New Year's!! I hope that you had a fantastic 2008 and that your 2009 is even better. Did you have a fun New Year's Eve? We sure did. Our friends Jessica and Dustin came over for a night of great food, good drinks, and fun times! We chowed down on a wonderful burger recipe that they shared with us. Why put the cheese and bacon on the outside of your burger when you can put it on the inside?? It's a simple recipe that yields a juicy, mouth-wateringly delicious burger. Try it tonight!***

2 lbs. ground beef
Swiss cheese, sliced
1 pkg. pre-cooked bacon
Your choice of extra goodies - ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickles, mayo, buns, etc.

Shape ground beef into extra thin, round patties. Cut swiss cheese squares into quarters. Also, cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Place cheese and bacon pieces on the center of a hamburger patty. Place a second hamburger patty on top, cinching the edges all the way around to seal the will be a big burger! :) Repeat with the rest of the ground beef.

Pop those babies onto the grill, flipping occasionally until well done. Serve immediately.