Friday, February 29, 2008

DB February Challenge: Julia Child's French Bread

Wow, this was an intimidating month for the Daring Bakers Challenge! When I first read the recipe--over 10 pages!--I sort of panicked. Yeast! And over 7 hours from start to finish! And lots of details to keep track of!

Then, I took a deep breath and thought, well, there are only four ingredients, how bad can it be? Julia's bread recipe includes only flour, water, yeast, and salt; it's what you do with them that makes it pretty amazing. Although the recipe has lots of complicated-seeming instructions on shaping, using a canvas (?) and some other stuff I wasn't sure about, I just sort of forged ahead and did what I could...although I didn't have the perfect kitchen setup, I think everything went very well. Maybe next time I will try misting the bread in the oven or using a baking stone. Or even just some parchment paper to bake it on. ;) Even without the fancy stuff, I was very happy with how things turned out.

I made the rolls option so that I could sneak one right out of the oven before they cooled--after all, to me the whole point of making bread at home is that you get it warm! The recipe says they're best cooled, but I have to say I liked them even better just out of the oven! I sliced a roll in half, stuffed some dark chocolate in there...heaven! I also enjoyed them toasted with butter and jam...equally heavenly!

The best part of this recipe was that it totally got me over my fear of yeast! After an eight-hour process of rising, punching down, shaping, etc., I'm no longer so intimidated by recipes with just one 1-1/2 hour rise! That's part of the reason for so few posts lately--I've been baking bread and I didn't want to put it up before this post...but never fear, I'll get my latest bread-baking efforts up soon. Yay for yeast!

Make sure to check out the rest of the bread here. And the recipe is here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Potato-Corn Chowder

This soup is based on one my mom makes, but with sausage and cream (yum!). It's very rich, but very delicious!

Here's my housemate Jessie modeling a bowl. :)

Potato-Corn Chowder

Boil 5-6 small-to-medium sized potatoes until fully cooked. Cool slightly and cut into chunks. Set aside.

Crumble 2 sausages and saute until cooked through. (We used Sicilian-flavored pork sausages.) Set aside.

Chop up 1 medium onion, 1 bulb fennel, and 1 large carrot. Saute them in butter (starting with the onion and adding the rest as things get soft). When everything is soft, add back in the potatoes and sausage and then pour in a mixture of milk and heavy cream to get your desired thickness/richness/soupiness. You can also add a little more butter at this stage if you haven't yet had a heart attack. We made it pretty thick and creamy, but you could definitely go with something less chowder and more soup. Let everything heat through and simmer a little to thicken, and then add 1 bag of frozen corn (or some fresh corn off the cob). Season with salt and pepper. Heat through and serve topped with chopped up fennel fronds and cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fennel Salmon, Israeli Couscous, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

My housemate Jessie and I made this delicious dinner last week. The salmon has great flavors, though I would recommend taking off the skin and cutting it into bite-sized chunks (unlike the picture below)...I've done this in the past and it ends up moister because it doesn't need to cook so long. The brussels sprouts are a recipe from another housemate, Josh, and they're totally amazing.

Fennel Salmon (Adapted from Bon Appetit's recipe here.)
Sautee 2 minced shallots in 1/2 stick of butter until they start to get soft. Add one large fennel bulb, quartered and cut into thin slices. Season with salt and pepper. Once the fennel starts to soften, add one fillet of salmon, skinned and cut into bite-sized chunks, as well as 1 1/2 tsp toasted fennel seeds. Cook until the salmon is cooked through and opaque in the center. Serve sprinkled with chopped fennel fronds.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Courtesy of Josh)
Halve brussels sprouts and place in baking dish. Cut bacon slices into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss brussels sprouts and bacon with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until browned and tender. Adjust amounts for how much you would like!

Israeli Couscous
Sautee 2 shallots in 2 T butter until very soft. Add 1 c Israeli couscous and sautee for a minute or two until lightly browned. Add chicken stock to cover. Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender. If the liquid is absorbed before the couscous is tender, add water and continue simmering. Taste for salt and pepper (may depend on saltiness of chicken stock). Add chopped oregano or another fresh herb and serve.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Raspberry Cupcakes

These amazing raspberry cupcakes are also from Cupcakes!, and I think they're in my top ten ever. I made them for a cupcake and wine party that one of my friends ingeniously thought up and they were definitely a hit, even among all the chocolate! They're light and the raspberry flavor comes through perfectly. The bit of almond extract isn't really detectable right after they're baked, but it gets stronger the longer they sit around (if you can manage to do that!) The frosting is pretty intense, and makes more than you'll need, so I actually remade the cake recipe the next day and baked it in a rectangular cake pan...luckily it also works well this way, and my housemates didn't have to be too upset about me taking away all those cupcakes!

Raspberry Cupcakes (adapted slightly from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans)
Makes 12 regular + 9 mini cupcakes

1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
6 T butter at room temperature
1 c sugar
5 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 c fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries

1 c fresh or frozen (thawed) raspberries
6 T butter
4 oz. cream cheese
2 1/2 c powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on low speed until the whites are foamy and the cream of tartar dissolves. Then beat on medium high until the whites for soft peaks.
4. Rinse off the mixer. In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar until smoothly blended and light in color, 2 minutes. On low speed, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions. Use a rubber spatula to fold one third of the whites into the batter. Then gently fold in the remaining whites until no streaks of egg remain. Gently fold in raspberries. Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full and then bake until the tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 30 minutes.
5. Make the frosting. Process the raspberries in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine strainer, discarding seeds and pulp.
6. Use an electric mixer to beat together butter and cream cheese. Beat in the raspberry puree. On low speed, beat in the powdered sugar (you may need more or less depending on how thick you want your frosting). Then turn the blender to high speed for a minute or two to aerate the frosting. When the cupcakes are cool, frost and serve!

Hummingbird Swirls

I recently got an excellent new cookbook called Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans. Every cupcake I've made out of it so far has been really delicious--I highly recommend it! These particular ones are hummingbird cakes, a southern recipe that combines banana, pecans, and pineapple. I used the recipe from the cookbook and did up my own frosting--a butterscotch cream cheese. It didn't turn out quite as good as I wanted, so I won't list the recipe here, but I think these would be good topped with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

Hummingbird Swirls (from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans)

1 1/4 flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 c oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c sour cream
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c mashed banana (1 banana)
1/2 c canned crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained
1/2 c pecans, finely chopped

Preheat money to 350 degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together egg and yolk with sugar until thickened and lightened to a cream color, 2 minutes. On low speed, add the oil and vanilla until blended. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. Mix in the flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Mix together the cinnamon, banana, pineapple, and pecans. Mix them into the batter just to blend. Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/3 c of batter. Bake until the tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and then frost with cream cheese frosting.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sausage-Fennel Hand Pies

These delightful hand pies are a bit of work--you make the crust, make the filling, and then cut up the crust into little squares and fold in the filling. But they're definitely worth it. Extra yummy, extra sausage-and-fennel-y, and extra fun with the little "hand pie" design.

Sausage-Fennel Hand Pies (from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)

1/4 c EVOO (optional)
1 pound sweet italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 small head fennel (about 1 pound), trimmed, cored, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
6 plum tomatoes, quartered, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
pate brisee (see below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten, 3 T fennel seeds, lightly toasted

1. Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium heat (no need if you have a non-stick pan as the sausage will release oil). Crumble sausage into pan and cook until browned, 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.
2. If needed, add more oil--depending on your sausage, you may not need any. Add the onion and cook 2 minutes (or a tad longer if you like your onion really soft). Add fennel and red pepper flakes, season with S&P. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is tender, 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until they release their juices, 3-4 minutes. Add reserved sausage. Remove from heat and let cool COMPLETELY. This is a good time to roll out the crust. When the filling is cooled, add feta and stir in.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil. Now roll out 12 5x5 squares of dough from the pate brisee recipe (below). You can do this a lot of ways. I divided my dough into 3 pieces and made 4 squares out of each piece, rolling everything out between wax paper.
4. Put 1/2 c filling in the middle of each square, and then fold the corners up to cover it (shouldn't be completely sealed or anything). Lay them out on the baking sheet--they don't rise so I was able to fit all 12 on my sheet (admittedly it's an extra large sized one).
5. Brush tops with egg and sprinkle on fennel seeds. Bake until golden brown, 40 minutes (actually less in my oven). Cool slightly and serve warm.

Pate Brisee

2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 c ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles course crumbs. While machine is running, add ice water slowly until dough just holds together without being wet or sticky. You might need to add a little more water depending on how humid it is. Then chill the dough at least 1 hour or overnight.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Athenos.