Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nanaimo Bars + Homemade Graham Crackers!

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

There hasn't been a month yet, where I wasn't excited about the Daring Bakers' Challenge. This month was no exception. This Canadian treat...the Nanaimo Bar...was much easier to make than previous challenges, and they taste amazing. I especially LOVED the bottom layer, with the coconut, homemade graham crackers, and almonds....So good!

The hardest part of this recipe was making the graham crackers from scratch. Yes, the dough is a little fussy and not the easiest to work with (because it's a very wet dough), but they are totally doable. I did not make the gluten free version, so I used regular ole' all purpose flour instead. Once the graham crackers are finished, this recipe is easy peasy! However, if you wanted to make these even easier, you could use store-bought graham crackers. By doing that, this recipe would be a cinch!

I didn't really have any major problems to report on this month. I found this recipe to be easy to follow and make. You'll really enjoy these!

Recipe Source: Graham Wafers — 101 Cookbooks ( I adapted it to be gluten-free. The adapted recipe is below.

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers:
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract

1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Bottom Layer...
Middle Layer...
Top Layer...
Nanaimo Bars:
For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces)
Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

Additional Information:
- These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.
- The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- If making the graham crackers with wheat, replace the gluten-free flours (tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, and sorghum flour) with 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp of all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour. Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes.
- For the Nanaimo Bars, if making with wheat, replace the gluten-free graham wafer crumbs with equal parts wheat graham wafer crumbs!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Broiled Salmon with Spinach & Feta Saute

***If you're a fan of salmon and are in need of a quick and delicious weeknight meal, may I suggest this amazing recipe? Dinner doesn't get much easier than this. This entire meal can be ready in less than 20 minutes...or certainly 30. The salmon broils for about 7 minutes, and the sauteed spinach is prepared while the salmon is in the oven....Easy Peasy!

The taste is wonderful. In fact, Brad made the comment that this dish was one of his favorite things that I've made recently. I have to agree...So, it's earned a spot in the Top-Rated Recipes category! Plus, it makes a beautiful presentation. Because of that, this dish would certainly make a great meal for dinner guests. One that will make everyone think you've slaved away in the kitchen all afternoon...Hehe. If they only knew...

I love the combination of spinach and feta here...that's one of my favorite combos in anything. The pine nuts add just the right texture, and it all goes perfectly with the salmon. I think you'll REALLY enjoy this one!

Bon Appetit!***

4 skinless salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bags (5 ounces each) baby spinach
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (2 ounces)
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from heat. Place salmon on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Broil until opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add as much spinach as will fit; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing spinach and adding more to skillet as space becomes available, until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; drain off excess liquid. Stir in feta, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Serve salmon with spinach saute.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chicken Potpie - Ad Hoc at Home

***There are certain dishes that conjure up memories from childhood. I can remember eating the Swanson's chicken potpies as a child, just as Mr. Keller mentions in his cookbook. We'd pop those into the oven, and dinner would soon be ready. Those are really the only chicken potpies that I've ever really eaten...until now.

I couldn't pass up the recipe for Chicken Potpie in Ad Hoc at Home. It sounded like the perfect, comforting dish for a cold winter night. This potpie certainly takes more effort than popping a frozen pie in the oven, but I can promise you that it's worth the effort!

There are several things that I did to simplify Mr. Keller's recipe. The directions say to cook the potatoes, carrots, and onions in separate saucepans. I cooked them all together in one pot, and I even added the celery during the last few minutes of cooking. I also did not strain the bechamel sauce. This saved many dirty pots at the end of the night!

I did cook an entire roasting chicken for this recipe. I boiled it in water, along with celery, carrots, onions, and herbs. This made the chicken taste perfect and guess what...I had an entire pot of delicious chicken stock that I separated into different containers and stored in the freezer! However, you could further simplify things by simply purchasing a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store.

I did not use Thomas Keller's recipe for Pie Crust. I used Melissa d'Arabian's recipe from the Potato-Bacon Torte that I posted recently. That crust is so amazing...and easy! It worked PERFECTLY here! I've included a link to the crust recipe below.

I hope you enjoy this recipe...Bon Appetit!***

Chicken Potpie
Source: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller; Pages 24 - 25

Basic Pie Crust (Recipe can be found HERE)

1 cup 1/2-inch pieces red-skinned potatoes
1 1/4 cups 1/2-inch pieces carrots (cut on the diagonal)
12 white pearl onions
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns
1 1/4 cups 1/2-inch pieces of celery (cut on the diagonal)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Pinch of cayenne

1 egg, beaten

Roll out the dough, place one piece in a 9 or 10 inch pie plate and the second on a baking sheet, and refrigerate.

Put the potatoes, carrots, and onions in separate small saucepans with water to cover and add 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig, and 8 peppercorns to each pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the vegetables, discard the bay, thyme, and peppercorns, and spread on a baking sheet. Cut the onions in half.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Blanch the celery until just crisp-tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, transfer to the ice bath, and chill just until cold. Drain and add to the baking sheet with the other vegetables.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the bechamel doesn't burn.

Position the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Strain the bechamel through a fine-mesh conical strainer into a spouted measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.

Remove both doughs from the refrigerator.

Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell. Pour the bechamel over them. At this point, if the top crust is too hard to shape, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Moisten the rim of pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with a small cutter or the tip of a paring knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the center rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust. On the other hand, if crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the potpie into 6 wedges and serve warm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sugar & Spice Got a Makeover!

Welcome to the new face of "Sugar & Spice by Celeste"! I am so excited to launch this new design. My wonderfully talented husband designed the header for me, and I found the background over at What do you think?

Stay tuned for Thomas Keller's recipe for homemade Chicken Pot Pie...Coming soon!

I hope you like it! I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thomas Keller's Brownies - Ad Hoc at Home

***Okay, folks...There is a special place in my heart for all things chocolate. And now, these brownies have taken up a large part of that special place. Close your eyes and imagine chocolately goodness...warm out of the oven. The first bite is heaven, and the second bite is even better. Halfway through your first bite, you hit a pocket of gooey goodness (a.k.a.: a warm chocolate chip).

You can open your eyes now...

Thomas Keller has done it again with his simple recipe for brownies. The best part about these insanely fantastic brownies are the bits of chocolate that are stirred into the batter before baking. They explode in your mouth as you take that first bite.

But...please prepare yourself...This recipe calls for THREE sticks of butter....Yes, I said THREE. I had to pick my chin up off the floor too after reading that. I think that I even heard my arteries let out a faint yell "NO! Don't do it!" It seemed like such a large amount for only 12 brownies.

When it came time to add the butter, I could not do it...I mean, seriously? THREE? I decided to add only TWO sticks of butter. This resulted in a lot of breath-holding and wondering if I had completely ruined the brownies that were supposed to be so amazing.

The verdict? They were still insanely fantastic!!! These have certainly earned a spot in the "Top-Rated Recipes" category.

I found that these brownies keep well and reheat wonderfully. I can imagine that they'd be almost sinful with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Okay...that's enough...I must go eat a brownie now...

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
6 oz 61 to 64% chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces ( about 1 1/2 cups)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F. We use a 9-inch square silicone mold, because it keeps the edges from overcooking; if you use a metal or glass baking pan, butter and flour it. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put the remaining butter in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter over the bowl of butter and stir to melt the butter. The butter should look creamy, with small bits of unmelted butter, and be at room temperature.

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until thick and very pale. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter. Add the chocolate and mix to combine. (The batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. If the pick comes out wet, test a second time, because you may have hit a piece of chocolate chip; then bake for a few more minutes longer if necessary. Cool in the pan until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature.

Run a knife around the edges if not using a silicone mold, and invert the brownie onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 rectangles. Dust the tops with powdered sugar just before serving.

Source: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad - Ad Hoc at Home

***So, if you haven't noticed lately, I am seriously in love with Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. I hope you're not getting tired of the Ad Hoc postings...there are certainly a few more recipes that I can't wait to share with you!

This Tomato & Mozzarella Salad caught my eye because it looked so fresh and delicious...Plus, I love, love, love caprese salad. We ate a caprese salad in Rome, Italy that was especially wonderful. The flavors were vibrant...the tomatoes were fresh...and the mozzarella was perfectly soft.

This particular recipe makes a gorgeous presentation, and it just gets better after the first day...once the flavors really have time to meld together. Mr. Keller recommends serving the mozzarella on the side of this salad, but I mixed mine right in. Thomas also includes instructions for making your own mozzarella. While this is something that I definitely plan to tackle one day, I did go ahead and use store-bought mozzarella this time around.

Shh...don't tell anyone...

Bon Appetit!***

Adapted from Thomas Keller's "Tomato and Handmade Mozzarella Salad"
Source: Ad Hoc at Hoc; Pages 148 - 149

16 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
3-3/4 pounds assorted medium to large tomatoes
1/2 pound assorted cherry and/or grape tomatoes, such as Sweet 100s or Sun Gold
1/2 medium Armenian cucumber or 1/4 Engalish cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
2 tablespoons Basil Oil (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
12 to 15 small basil leaves, such as Italian, opal, and/or lemon lime
Fleur de sel
I made a dressing by mixing 1 part balsamic vinegar with 2 parts olive oil (or about 1/3 cup vinegar + 2/3 cup olive oil.) I drizzled this dressing over the entire salad before serving.

Core the large tomatoes and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Halve or quarter the small tomatoes, depending on their size; leave some of the small stems attached. Peel the cucumber and cut into desired shapes.

To make the basil cream, if desired, whip the cream in a medium bowl until it just holds soft peaks. Fold in the basil oil. (The cream should not be refrigerated, or the texture will change.)

Spread the tomato slices on a baking sheet or work surface, with the wider side of the tomatoes facing up, and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Turn the slices over, brush lightly with the basil cream, and season with salt and pepper. (The basil cream will add just a small amount of hidden flavor to the dish.) Drizzle olive oil over the small tomatoes and the cucumber.

Arrange the sliced tomatoes on a large platter, basil cream side down. Layer the cucumber slices and small tomatoes on top, and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter the onion and basil over the salad and sprinkle fleur de sel around the platter.

Serve with the mozzarella and remaining basil cream on the side.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pizza w/Mushrooms, Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, Wilted Spinach and Feta

***The other night, we were craving pizza...not delivery, but homemade. I LOVE Frank Stitt's recipe for Basic Pizza Dough. I've made it over and over again, and it has never failed to impress. It comes together fast, rises for only 30 - 45 minutes, and then bakes up into the perfect crusty goodness...with an amazing texture! You can find the recipe HERE.

I didn't want to go to the store for any special ingredients, so I looked for a recipe that would incorporate ingredients that I already had on-hand. I hit the jackpot with Frank Stitt's recipe for "Pizza with Mushrooms, Butternut Squash, and Wilted Greens". I had never had butternut squash on a pizza, but I love trying new food combinations, so I decided to give it a go. I added a little Feta cheese to Chef Stitt's original recipe, which Brad and I both love on pizza.

I ended up really liking this pizza! No doubt, one of the reasons is because it IS so different. I also made a Barbeque Chicken Pizza that night, which we also loved. I made a few changes to the original recipe, which are highlighted in blue below.

If you're craving something different, perhaps this is the recipe for you!

Bon Appetit!***

Pizza with Wild Mushrooms, Butternut Squash, and Wilted Greens
Source: Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita cookbook

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, thickly sliced
About 1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
2 cups spinach leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 7 oz. portion of Basic Pizza Dough (link to recipe is above)
Coarse cornmeal for sprinkling
1 tablespoon Alecia's Tomato Chutney
1/2 cup cubed Roasted Butternut Squash and Balsamico (recipe below)
3 oz. Fontina, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I substituted with shredded mozzarella)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. If using a baking stone, preheat it for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil to the hot pan, then add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and are a rich brown. Transfer to the plate with the onions.

Throw the spinach leaves into the hot pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer to the plate with the onions and mushrooms.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10-inch round. Transfer it to a 12-inch pizza pan, a large baking sheet, or a pizza wheel that has been sprinkled with coarse cornmeal.

Spread the tomato chutney evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. (I didn't have the chutney on-hand, so I simply drizzled olive oil over the dough). Top with the chicken, mushrooms, squash, and onions. Dot the top with the cubes of Fontina. Sprinkle with the red pepper.

Transfer the pan to the oven or slide the pizza onto the hot stone and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Balsamico
1 butternut squash, cut lengthwise in half, seeds and membranes removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the cut surfaces of the butternut squash with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until just soft.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, then cut the flesh into 2-inch chunks. Toss with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and serve.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Olive Cheese Bread & ROLL TIDE!

***First of all, I just have to send a big "ROLL TIDE!!!" to all of my fellow University of Alabama Crimson Tide Fans! We won the National Championship last night, and it was awesome! I was so proud of our guys...they played hard in what turned out to be a fantastic game...they definitely deserved this historic win!! :-)

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming:
I was so excited to receive Ree Drummond's new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, on Christmas day. If you're looking for a hearty, delicious, mouth-watering dish, I'm sure that Ree has just the recipe for you.

After reading through the cookbook, this Olive Cheese Bread both sounded and looked divine. We love, love, love olives around this house, so I couldn't wait to give this a try. It tasted scrumptious...cheesy, olive-y, goodness!

I couldn't find straight monterey jack cheese at the store, so I had to use a cheddar/monterey jack mix. A great tip that Ree suggests in her cookbook is freezing part of the recipe, if you aren't going to eat it immediately. This worked perfectly for Brad and me. I baked up one half of the french bread, and froze the other half. I simply placed the Olive/Cheese mixture on the second half and froze it whole. Ree promises that it will bake up perfectly after thawing, and it will last several months in the freezer. So, next time I need a quick side dish or appetizer, all I have to do is pull this out of the freezer...Gotta love that!

Bon Appetit!***

1 loaf French Bread
6 ounces, weight Pimiento-stuffed Green Olives
6 ounces, weight Black Olives
2 stalks Green Onions (scallions)
1 stick Butter, Room Temperature
½ cups Mayonnaise
¾ pounds Monterey Jack Cheese, Grated

Roughly chop both black olives and pimiento-stuffed green olives. Slice green onions into thin pieces.

Combine butter, mayonnaise, cheese, olives and green onions in a mixing bowl. Stir together until thoroughly combined. Spread mixture onto French bread that has been sliced lengthwise. Bake at 325ºF for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and browning.

Mixture can also be refrigerated (up to two days) and used as a dip. Great with crackers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ad Hoc's Buttermilk Biscuits

As a Southern girl born and raised in Alabama, I naturally gravitated straight to the Buttermilk Biscuit recipe in Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. Actually, it was the first recipe I tried out of this awesome cookbook. Everyone...I repeat, Everyone...needs a great Buttermilk Biscuit recipe in their arsenal...whether you are Southern, or not!

These particular biscuits are perfectly buttery, comforting, and scrumptious! They go wonderfully with jam, of course. Thomas Keller also recommends serving them with a sprinkling of fleur de sel or as a strawberry shortcake biscuit for dessert.

I have to warn you, though...These are NOT in any form or fashion diet biscuits...Hah. After all, what great biscuits are, right? These do have a lot of butter in them, but they wouldn't be the same without it.

Be careful not to overwork your dough. That will make your biscuits tough. Also, be sure to press the dough cutter straight down, without turning the cutter. If you turn it while cutting, your biscuits may not rise as high.

Bon Appetit!***

2 cups cake flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp + 1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cubes and chilled
1-1/2 cups buttermilk + 1 to 2 tbsp for brushing
2 to 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, for brushing

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In bowl of food processor, combine two flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Pulse several times to blend. Add the chilled butter and pulse several times, until the pieces of butter are no bigger than small peas. Don't overprocess or let dough come together.

Transfer flour mixture to large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in 1-1/2 cups buttermilk. Stir and lift mixture with wooden spoon, gently working flour into buttermilk. Dough should begin to come together but not form solid mass or biscuits may be tough.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Pat into 3/4-inch rectangle, about 9 inches by 13 inches.
Using 2-1/2-inch round cutter (or bottom of glass), cut out biscuits. If the cutter sticks to the dough, dip the cutter in flour before cutting. The dough trimmings can be gently pushed together, patted out and cut one more time; do not overwork the dough.

Place biscuits, 1-inch apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of buttermilk.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until a rich golden brown. As soon as you remove the biscuits from the oven, brush with melted butter. Serve warm.

Makes 12 biscuits.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ad Hoc's Fig and Balsamic Jam

***Alright, here's the recipe for the Fig and Balsamic Jam that I promised in my last post. This jam is used in the delicious Fig-Stuffed Roast Pork Loin from Ad Hoc at Home. I'm so happy that it makes 2 1/2 cups of jam. I used 1 cup in the pork loin, and had plenty left over for later use. It's sitting pretty in the fridge right now.

This jam is wonderful...seriously.

I had to make a few modifications, since fresh figs are not available right now. I had to use dried figs, but they worked fine. I simmered them in the saucepan in a little water for about 5 - 10 minutes to help soften them. I used a potato masher to help mash and smooth out the figs. I also don't have a candy thermometer, so I had to guess at the correct temperature. I simply stopped when the jam seemed to be the correct consistency.

The results were fantastic...I'll definitely be making this again. If you're like me, you love fig jam! In my opinion, it's always good to have a stash in the fridge for when a craving strikes.

Bon Appetit!***

2 lbs. figs, preferably Black Mission or Kadota, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, tied into a sachet
Fresh lemon juice

Combine the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and a sachet in a large saucepan and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring to break up the large pieces of fig, keeping a chunky consistency, until the jam reaches 215 to 220 degrees F. Remove from the heat.

Remove the sachet and stir in the lemon juice to taste. Spoon the jam into a canning jar or other storage container, cover, and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Source: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller