Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thanksgiving in September: Creamy Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie

This pie was my final dish for the mini-Thanksgiving we had a couple of weeks ago. It's amazing--extra creamy from all that heavy cream, perfectly pumpkin-flavored, and just the right amount of spice to taste just like fall without being overwhelming. The crust melted a little on me in the oven, a problem I seem to have with pie crusts for some reason, but it was still delicious once I pushed it up the sides with a spoon and poured in the filling.

Creamy Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie (adapted from Fine Cooking)

For the crust:
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup very cold water
1 1/2 cups flour
10 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the filling:
15-oz. can pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
1 T light rum or brandy
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch ground cloves

1. Make the crust. In a small bowl, mix together the salt and water until dissolved. Place in the freezer while you get everything else ready.
2. Put the flour in a food processor and scatter the butter on top. Pulse until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is in pieces the size of peas, about 8 pulses. Add the salt water and pulse until the dough begins to come together in large clumps with some pieces of butter still visible. Shape into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
3. Place the dough circle between two sheets of wax paper and roll out to a 1/8 inch thick circle. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate that has been sprayed with oil. Crimp the edges.
4. Place the crust in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees, line the pie shell with parchment, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the sides have set and look dry, 16-20 minutes. Remove weights and bake 5 minutes more. If the dough starts to bubble, push it back down with the back of a spoon. Let the crust cool completely.
5. Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Meanwhile, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, yolk, cream, and rum in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper, and cloves. Stir together with a fork to get rid of any lump in the brown sugar. Then gently whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin.
6. Pour filling into cooled crust and bake until pie is set around the outside but still slightly wet and jiggly in the middle, about 1 hour. Let cool completely, and then chill for at least 2 hours before serving. The pie will keep for 2 days in the fridge.
7. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

September Daring Bakers: Lavash Crackers with White Bean-Artichoke-Rosemary Dip

This month's Daring Bakers challenge comes from Natalie of Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl. The challenge was to go vegan and gluten-free for a month! For the lavash crackers, we had the option to use regular flour or gluten-free, and for the dip we had to make something both vegan and gluten-free.

The lavash crackers were super delicious! They were quite easy to whip up, with the only problem getting them to roll out thin enough! I think if I'd had a pasta maker it might have gone better, but as it was they were very difficult to get thin. Nonetheless, the crackers tasted delicious even if they were a bit thicker than normal. I sprinked half with Tuscan seasoning salt and the other half with Provencal seasoning salt, both of which resulted in truly tasty crackers. They were a little crisper the second day, which was nice.

For my dip, I went for a white bean-artichoke-rosemary dip that was quick to put together in the food processor and super delicious (also a little better the second day after the flavors had time to meld). The recipe makes too much for one batch of crackers, so I also enjoyed it as a spread on a ham and swiss sandwich.

Lavash Crackers (from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)

The key to a crisp lavash,…is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar (or honey if you aren't vegan)
1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to pre-cut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

White Bean-Artichoke-Rosemary Dip (from SELF magazine)

1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp dried rosemary
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cans (15.5 oz each) white beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts (packed in water, drained)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the garlic and rosemary in the food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse briefly. Add the white beans and artichoke hearts, and process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thanksgiving in September: Cauliflower with Brown Butter, Pears, Sage, and Hazelnuts

This was dish number two of the Thanksgiving in September extravaganza. It's a really unique dish, and the flavors go together very well. The cauliflower is nutty, the pears lend just the right sweet touch, and the nuts add great crunch. And then you can't beat the flavor of browned butter! This is an elegant side dish that's easy to pull together...it's also fun to surprise your guests with the unusual combination of flavors!

Cauliflower with Brown Butter, Pears, Sage, and Hazelnuts (from Fine Cooking)

6 T unsalted butter
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (I bought a 1/2 cup bag in the baking section, but you could toast and chop them yourself)
8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1. In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook until browned and bubbling, swirling the pan occasionally.
2. Add the cauliflower, hazelnuts, and sage. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Continue to cook until the cauliflower is browned and tender.
3. Remove pan from heat and toss in the pears gently to combine. Season to taste with more salt if needed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thanksgiving in September: Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries, Pecans, and Golden Raisins

A couple of weekends ago, I was a little fed up with work, a lot stressed out about all the work left to do, and my new issue of Fine Cooking had just arrived. There was a fantastic article on Thanksgiving, and I just couldn't resist! I made stuffing, cauliflower, and pumpkin pie, and my housemates chimed in with mashed potatoes and a dining room table made over with candles and cloth napkins! It made for a perfect Thanksgiving in September. To save time, we bought a rotisserie chicken and a rotisserie turkey breast...not quite as good as homemade, but it did make it possible to have mini-Thanksgiving for six in about four hours! Yum. I'm posting the recipe for the delicious stuffing today, and I'll follow up with the other dishes later this week. The only thing I would do differently here is to make some gravy to go alongside the stuffing...without a bird, we didn't think to buy a jar, but I think this would help a lot since the stuffing was a bit dry. The flavors were wonderful though, and I would definitely make it again, just with gravy on top.

Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries, Pecans, and Golden Raisins (adapted from Fine Cooking)

1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup golden raisins
1-pound loaf of rustic bread
3 T olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup thinly chopped fresh chives
2 T chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
2 cups turkey or chicken broth

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Put the cranberries and raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let stand while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
3. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine the bread, olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Arrange the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Toast in the oven, tossing occasionally, until golden brown (about 20 minutes). Remove from the oven and place in a large bowl.
4. Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the pecans and continue to cook for about ten minutes, until everything is nicely browned and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Drain the cranberries and raisins and add to the toasted bread. Pour in the shallot-pecan-butter mixture in a few additions, tossing the bread after each addition. Add the chives, thyme, and orange zest and toss to combine.
6. At this point, you can hold the ingredients for a few hours or continue with the recipe right away. Stir in the broth. Toss well--the bread should absorb most of the broth. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Hold at room temperature up to one hour, or cook right away.
7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake until crusty and golden, another 25-35 minutes.

My housemate Josh was nice enough to be the photographer for the Thanksgiving in September photo shoot...here he is carving the meat:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Caesar Salad

Making your own Ceasar salad is really easy and the result tastes so much better than bottled dressing! It has good anchovy flavor, which I like, but you could also reduce the number of anchovies if they aren't so much your thing. Making your own croutons is also easy and tastes wonderful. I like to saute bread cubes in butter because I think it gives them great flavor and really makes the salad stand out. You could also use olive oil for equally-yummy croutons.

Caesar Salad (adapted from Martha Stewart)

2 cloves garlic
3 anchovy fillets
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small loaf white rustic bread, cut into cubes
2 heads (10 ounces each) romaine lettuce, outer leaves discarded, inner leaves washed and dried, or two packaged hearts of romaine
2 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler, plus more to garnish

1. Make the dressing: Place garlic, anchovy fillets, and salt on a cutting board. Using two dinner forks, mash into a paste.
Place the anchovy paste into a medium-sized jar and add the pepper lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, yolk, and olive oil. Shake well to combine.
2. Make the croutons: Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the bread cubes. Saute, turning a few times, until the croutons are golden brown and toasty. Set aside to cool.
3. Assemble the salad: Chop the romaine leaves into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl with the croutons and cheese. Add dressing and toss. Start with a smaller amount of dressing and add more until you get the salad as dressed as you like. Top the salad with more shaved Parmesan to serve.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vanilla Figs with Honeybee Ice Cream

I figured that I'd better post this recipe before fig season is completely over! We originally bought these figs to grill, and then in the excitement of dinner forgot completely! They are truly delightful, and super easy. You just trim the figs, stick a piece of vanilla bean in the middle, and then roast in the oven with butter until soft and delicious. We served the figs with Haagen-Dazs' new vanilla-honey bee ice cream, which I highly recommend. It has a fabulous honey flavor and it complemented the figs perfectly. I think this ice cream would also be good with pumpkin pie, fruit cobblers...pretty much anything!

Vanilla Figs with Honeybee Ice Cream (Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook)
Serves 3-4

9 ripe figs
2-3 vanilla beans, cut into 9 pieces.
3 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Honey ice cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash and dry the figs, then trim off the stem end. Push a piece of vanilla bean into the center of each fig, leaving a little sticking out to look like a stem.
3. Melt the butter and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Pour into a small, oven-safe pan about the right size to fit the figs. Arrange the figs in the pan and roast for 10 minutes in the oven. Serve with ice cream.

I'm sending this post off to Blogger Secret Ingredient, hosted this week by Around my Family Table. The secret ingredient is vanilla!

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

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cooking with Alicia and Annie: Peach-Pecan Bread

This sweet bread comes from Annie's Easy Recipes, and the original can be found here. It's a great way to use up fresh peaches that are getting a little past their prime, and it's really delicious. The bread is pleasantly sweet and has good peach flavor without being too sweet to have for breakfast. (Of course, I'm likely to eat cake for breakfast, but some people don't seem to like that so much...) The bread also has a nice, crunchy crust. Yum!

If you try this recipe or another from Annie's site, be sure to post about it and enter in Cooking with Alicia and Annie!

Peach-Pecan Bread (recipe from Annie's Easy Recipes)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh peaches
1 T lemon juice
1/3 cup neutral oil
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the peaches and lemon juice. Pour the oil, milk, vanilla, and eggs into a two-cup measuring cup.
3. Add the oil-milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Fold in the peaches and pecans, and then pour into the loaf pan.
4. Bake 55-60 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Obama Cupcakes, Part 1: Vanilla Almond

I took these cupcakes to an Obama speech party back during the Democratic National Convention, but they would be delicious anytime! The cake flour and whipped egg whites make the cupcakes super light, almost like a sponge cake, and the touch of almond makes them very delicate and refined. Even though the frosting has white chocolate and cream cheese, it's not too strongly flavored and is just really delicious--even folks who weren't big white chocolate-fans seemed to enjoy it.

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes (from a deck of cupcake recipes on cards that my sister gave me)
Makes one dozen

1 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites
White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with cupcake papers.
2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together milk, vanilla, and almond extract.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand-held mixer), beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until lightened in color, 3 minutes. Lower the mixer speed, and add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions. Mix just until the flour is incorporated. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until foamy, 30 seconds. Then switch to high speed and beat until the whites are shiny, smooth, and hold soft peaks. Stir one third of the egg mixture into the reserved batter. Using a rubber spatula and a gentle hand, fold in the remaining whites until just blended.
5. Fill each paper liner with a scant 1/3 cup batter. Bake until the tops feel firm and a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely and frost.

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting (same source)

3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir until melted and smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Let cool slightly, then add the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until smooth, 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar in small batches until the frosting is smooth and the sweetness you like.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

This delicious barbecue chicken sandwich comes from everybody likes sandwiches, and it's a real winner. You can find the original recipe here, and it results in a super spicy, flavorful sandwich that's great for any backyard gathering. Instead of the traditional slaw, I topped the sandwiches with avocado and tomato to cool some of the spice. Either way you do it, the result is delicious! Summer subletter Josh says, "That chicken was maybe the most amazing thing I've eaten in a long time."

North Carolina Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches (the original recipe from everybody likes sandwiches can be located here)

1 T cumin
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt & pepper
6 bone-in chicken thighs
1 T olive oil

2 c cider vinegar
1 T kosher salt
1 T ground white pepper
1 T red pepper flakes
2 T white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c ketchup

White hamburger buns

1. Mix together the cumin, chipotle, thyme, salt, and pepper. Remove the skin from the chicken and rub with the spice mixture. Brown in a large skillet on both sides with the olive oil. Place the chicken in a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.

2. Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the chicken, making sure to coat both sides of each piece.

3. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in a 450 degree oven for forty minutes, until the meat easily pulls apart with a fork. Remove from the oven and shred chicken with two forks.

4. If you're grilling, lightly toast the buns on the grill; otherwise use a toaster oven. Top each bun with chicken, tomato, and avocado.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oat Bread

This recipe makes a somewhat dense but delicious loaf that's great for toast and sandwiches. It's a tad crumbly but the slices do hold together well enough to hold toppings/sandwich fillings. All the grains make it tasty and also healthy!

Oat Bread (adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
Note: The recipe below is with my adaptations; alternate choices from the recipe (like substituting milk for water) are listed in parentheses.

1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 additional cup warm water (or milk)
1/4 cup sorghum (or honey)
2 T canola oil (or softened butter)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup mixed wheat germ and cracked wheat (or wheat bran)
2-3 cups bread flour

1. Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl and set aside until foamy, 10 minutes.

2. In a mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup warm water, sorghum, oil, and salt. Stir in the yeast, then add the vital wheat gluten, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, and wheat. Beat in the bread flour in several additions until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Then knead 5 minutes, adding bread flour as needed to obtain a dough that is just slightly tacky to the touch.

3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled (1 to 1 1/2 hours). Punch down, shape into a loaf, and then press into an oiled 5x9 inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise about 35 minutes, until the dough is above the rim of the pan.

4. Preheat the oven in the last 15 minutes of rising to 375 degrees. Brush the top of the loaf with half-and-half. Bake in the 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until bread is well-browned and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom of the loaf.