Taste and see …

Cauliflower, potato, and cheese soup March 30, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Soup — F. Penner @ 6:42 PM
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I try to plan my menus around what the weather’s going to be for the week – more so in cooler weather, probably because I tend to want comfort food more when it’s grey and gloomy, or just cold.  It was cold and rainy (again!) for several days, so I decided to try a new recipe from the book, New England Soup Factory Cookbook, by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein.  It came through the office at some point, and I thoroughly enjoyed looking through it, so I bought it.  The majority of the recipes make a huge amount and since I’m only one person (and I don’t think I own a pot that’s large enough their full recipes) I haven’t made any of them ’til now.  I halved the ingredients for this recipe, and it still made a ton!  I posted my halved recipe, so if you want to make the full batch, just double everything! 🙂

Cauliflower, potato, and cheese soup

adapted from New England Soup Factory Cookbook

  • 1 Tb. salted butter
  • 1 whole clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 1 1/2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (*I just used 2 – I’m not sure what I’d do with half of a potato… but the orig. recipe calls for 3)
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a stockpot melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onions, celery, cauliflower florets, and potatoes.  Sauté for 10 minutes.  Add enough stock to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Add the cheese, cream, nutmeg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt, and pepper.  Puree the soup in the pot using a hand blender or working in batches with a regular blender until smooth.

Of course, I goofed a bit when making this.  I forgot to get celery at the store, so that’s not in my soup.  But it still tasted fine!  And I also didn’t think until I was eating the soup that it would be good with a nice piece of bread – something soft and chewy inside, but crusty.  Next time ’round…

Since the halved recipe still made way more than I want to eat in the course of a week, I froze a little to test it and see how it thawed.  It seemed all right, although I know generally cheese soups shouldn’t be frozen… I have seen some sites that say you can, you just have to gradually bring the temperature of the soup down (room temp. to fridge to freezer) and then do the same when reheating it.  I guess I’ll find out if that works when I reheat the batch that’s in my freezer!!

 

Cupcake or muffin? March 23, 2010

Filed under: Breads,Cakes,Desserts — F. Penner @ 7:37 PM
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I’m not really sure what to call what I baked tonight, hence the title…  The original recipe calls it a cake, so I guess they’re cupcakes?  Except that they haven’t got frosting, and they’re maybe a little healthier than your average cupcake, and you could possibly eat one for breakfast.  So maybe they’re muffins?  Regardless, they’re yummy :).

Today was the second rainy day in a row, which normally wouldn’t be too bad, except that we had absolutely gorgeous weather over the weekend.  I was in short sleeves and flip-flops Saturday and Sunday – it was awesome!!  And now it’s back to normal spring weather, including lots of rain.  So after sitting at my desk all day, staring at my computer and wishing it were the weekend again, I decided I need to bake something.  I realized while I was eating my lunch that I had an extra container of vanilla yogurt at home, and got to wondering whether or not I could substitute the vanilla yogurt for plain yogurt in this one recipe I have for banana bread/cake/whatever.  It’s also got chocolate and cinnamon and walnuts in it, at least in the original recipe – I changed a couple of things around…  I thought maybe making cupcakes/muffins would be better than making a whole cake – they’d be easier to freeze, share, etc. – and I’m really not a fan of walnuts (except when they’re in baklava) so I opted for almonds instead.

My revised version of Banana Chocolate Walnut Cake

adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1 6 oz. container vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-ounce) bar bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup almonds (3 ounces), toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.  Line muffin tins with 18 liners.

Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together softened butter (1 stick) and 3/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in eggs 1 at a time until blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, and vanilla (mixture will look curdled).

With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Toss together chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.  Place about 1 good-sized spoonful (just a regular spoon) of batter in each liner – you should go through half of the batter – then half a spoonful or so of the chocolate mixture on top of that (again, going through about half of the mixture).  Divide the rest of the batter evenly on top of the chocolate mixture, smoothing the batter to cover the chocolate in the middle.  Spoon the rest of the chocolate mixture on top of each muffin.

Bake for 24-27 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

*Alternately, you can also pour half of the batter into a buttered 9-inch square pan, sprinkle half of the chocolate mixture over that, pour the remaining batter over than, sprinkle the top with the rest of the chocolate, and bake for 35-40 minutes.

After writing this, eating one, and thinking about it, I’m still not sure whether these should be muffins or cupcakes… although I’m leaning towards muffins, because then if I end up eating one for breakfast, I won’t feel as guilty!  And just FYI – this recipe (cake or cupcake/muffin) tastes better warm – the chocolate gets nice and melty and gooey.

 

a rainy Saturday… and two recipes March 13, 2010

Filed under: Cookies,Desserts — F. Penner @ 6:13 PM
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It’s been raining here since yesterday, and apparently it’s supposed to keep raining through Monday.  Quite a change from the beautiful sunny weather I was enjoying earlier in the week!  My Saturdays are generally low-key – I’ll do my grocery shopping, clean (maybe), hang out with people… just generally veg and enjoy a day of not having to do anything specific.  All through this past week, I was trying to figure out what I could make with some leftover lemon juice & zest I had from another recipe.  I was initially thinking lemon curd, and then make a cake roll with that as my filling.  But then the yolks that I had frozen were a bit rubbery when they thawed – ew! – so I decided to hunt for something else, and found a recipe for Lemon Whoopie Pies.  The only whoopie pies I’ve had recently are what you normally think of – two chocolate cakey cookies, with a fluffy buttercream frosting in between, courtesy of my uncle, who started Chococoa Baking Co. a couple of years ago.  So I was intrigued by the idea of a lemon cookie with with lemon frosting – it sounded amazing!  I make the cookies, went shopping, and sat down to wait for the cream cheese and butter to come to room temperature for the frosting.  But then I became impatient, so I decided to help them along by sticking them in the microwave for about 10 seconds… and then I made the frosting.  It seemed a little softer than it should be (probably because I decided to help the butter & cream cheese soften :)), so I followed Joy the Baker’s advice and put it in the fridge for a little bit.  Not all of my cookies were the same size, although I thought I had used the same amount of batter for each one, so while I was waiting for the frosting to harden up a little, I went through and matched them up.  Yes, I am just that particular.  I dolloped the frosting on half of the cookies, placed the other half on top, and voila!


They are awesome.  And with a cream cheese frosting in the middle, you really can’t go wrong.  Soo! good.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with the leftover frosting.  It seemed a shame to just get rid of it, so I saved it.  But I’m not really sure what I can do, other than sneak spoonfuls of it occasionally over the next week… that might have to suffice. 😛

I was going to just let it go at the whoopie pies, and do something more productive with the rest of my afternoon, but I had seen a recipe in a recent issue of Rachael Ray’s magazine for milk chocolate cookies with a peanut butter frosting in the middle that I really wanted to make – the recipe claimed to taste like a Reese’s peanut butter cup.  Who can resist that??  So I got everything set for recipe #2.

Peanut Butter-Stuffed Milk Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups (15 ounces) milk chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, and divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium, microwavable bowl, melt together 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons butter on medium power until almost melted, about 1 1/2 minutes; stir just until smooth.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla at high speed until thickened and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the melted chocolate at medium speed; whisk in the flour mixture. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough until firm enough to scoop, but still soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Onto each prepared pan, drop 12 rounded tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart. Bake, switching and rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cookies appear bubbly and still soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat together the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the peanut butter. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; beat until fluffy. On the flat side of each of 12 cookies, spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the peanut butter mixture; sandwich with the remaining cookies.

I never actually follow recipes when they tell you to put 2 sheets in the oven at the same time – the couple times I’ve done that, it just doesn’t work out for me!  I wasn’t as impressed with recipe #2 – it tasted good (and somewhat close to a Reese’s cup) but the cookie was a little too chewy, and not in a good way.  Maybe I overbaked them – but when I pulled the first sheet out after 12 minutes the cookies looked underbaked so I put them in for a couple more minutes.  They weren’t soft like the recipe said they should be, although I don’t know that I’ve ever really had much success at baking a truly soft cookie.  I get paranoid that they’re not done, especially when I’ve never made the recipe before, and end up baking them a minute or two longer than necessary.  You’d think I’d learn…

 

Pizza Bianca March 12, 2010

Filed under: Dinner — F. Penner @ 6:10 PM
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My mom visited me last weekend, and I decided to make something new for the first night, and then just have leftovers the other night that she was here.  (I know – I’m a great hostess…)  So I went looking through my stash of Cook’s Illustrated magazines that she had given me a while back for inspiration.  I’ve actually gone through all of them and marked all the recipes that I want to make at some point – but for the most part I have yet to actually make any of them.  I found a recipe for a very wet, relatively low-maintenance pizza dough, so I decided to give it a shot.  I wasn’t overly impressed with it, but I think I needed to knead the dough a bit more.  It might not have quite gotten to the ‘pulling away from the sides of the bowl’ stage, but since it’s such a wet dough, it was hard to tell.  Plus I only have a hand mixer, and I was supposed to be using a KitchenAid – maybe if they gave me one with the recipe! 😀

The end result was all right.

The edges got a little too crispy for me, and because of the amount of olive oil the crust was baking in, the olive oil taste was also a little too much.  My mom liked it… but she likes just about everything I’ve cooked or baked for her :).  However, pizza is pizza, and it wasn’t bad – I just need to make it again – successfully!  I liked using the drained crushed tomatoes as the sauce.  I was a bit surprised to find that crushed tomatoes look like a thick tomato sauce – I was expecting them to look more along the lines of diced tomatoes.  At any rate, it was overall a decent pizza, but not awesome – IMHO.

Pizza Bianca with tomatoes and mozzarella

Topping

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (6 ounces)

Dough

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1 2/3 cups water (13 1/2 ounces), room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Place 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes in fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Let sit 30 minutes, stirring 3 times to allow juices to drain. Combine 3/4 cup tomato solids, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/8 teaspoon table salt. (Save remaining solids and juice for another use.)

2. Place towel or shelf liner beneath stand mixer to prevent wobbling. Mix flour, water, and table salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook on low speed until no patches of dry flour remain, 3 to 4 minutes, occasionally scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Turn off mixer and let dough rest 20 minutes.

3. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over dough. Knead on low speed until fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes, occasionally scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Increase mixer speed to high and knead until dough is glossy, smooth, and pulls away from sides of bowl, 6 to 10 minutes. (Dough will only pull away from sides while mixer is on. When mixer is off, dough will fall back to sides.)

4. Using fingers, coat large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, rubbing excess oil from fingers onto blade of rubber spatula. Using oiled spatula, transfer dough to bowl and pour 1 tablespoon oil over top. Flip dough over once so it is well coated with oil; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until nearly tripled in volume and large bubbles have formed, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

5. One hour before baking pizza, adjust oven rack to middle position, place pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees.

6. Coat rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons oil. Using rubber spatula, turn dough out onto baking sheet along with any oil in bowl. Using fingertips, press dough out toward edges of pan, taking care not to tear it. (Dough will not fit snugly into corners. If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes before trying to stretch again.) Let dough rest in pan until slightly bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Using dinner fork, poke surface of dough 30 to 40 times and sprinkle with kosher salt.

7. Bake until spotty brown, 15 to 17 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Using metal spatula, remove pizza from oven, spread tomato mixture evenly over surface, and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Return pizza to oven and continue to bake until cheese begins to brown in spots, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

 

Easy chocolate cake (and it’s not from a box!) March 4, 2010

Filed under: Cakes,Desserts — F. Penner @ 10:10 PM
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I always put any uneaten bananas in my freezer because that way when I want to make banana bread, I don’t have to go to the store and try to find bananas that are ripe enough.  I just have to take a couple out, thaw them, and then I’ve got the beginnings of yummy banana bread.  So the other night when I wanted to make banana bread, I figured I’d be good to go.  I had the bananas, the flour, the sugar, the chocolate… but I didn’t have plain yogurt! (which this particular recipe calls for).  And it was after dinner, and I didn’t really feel like putting shoes on and going to the store just for some plain yogurt.  But at this point I had already gotten myself in the mood for baking something, so I went looking through my recipe tin to see what I could come up with.  And found an easy recipe for chocolate cake.  Score!  Easy and chocolate.  And the recipe said it freezes well.  I decided to use cake flour in place of the all-purpose, even though I’d never made it before, just to see how it would turn out.  It came out pretty good!  (but apparently I should have subbed an extra couple tablespoons of the cake flour for the all-purpose – I found that out today when I was looking for the difference between cake and all-purpose flour.  oops.)

Just a few more notes… Maybe because I used cake flour instead of all-purpose (or maybe I’m just paranoid that my cake is never done) but I ended up baking it for about 40-43 minutes.  I started with 35, and then kept adding a few minutes.  I also only had miniature chocolate chips on hand, so I used those.  They made a little crust on top, which is good, but I think the regular chocolate chips would have been better.  All in all, though, I thought this was pretty close to that light, fluffy, moist cake you get from a box mix – except better :).  And with a chocolate chip ‘frosting.’