Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge: Steamed Pudding

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The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

First up, I went all over the place trying to find suet for human use... nada.  Even the vegetarian suet was unavailable - guess that's what happens when you live in a small-ish town! LOL!  So my next thought was, "ok, get some fat from the butcher and render your own so I would have suet."  Everyone sells their fat to places that render the fat.  It was mentioned in the challenge post that we could substitute for the suet.  I didn't want to go boring and use butter or crisco (which is nasty any way) so I purchased some lard.  Its animal and its fat.  Guess that is as close to suet as I'm going to get in this area. 
I've never steamed desserts before.  To be honest, it sounds rather disgusting.  For me its all about the texture when I'm eating.  The idea of steaming, or boiling as some recipes called for, equaled mushy texture.  That was my ignorant view any way.  I found several different ways to steam and went for the one that looked easiest.  I've done breads using steaming in the oven and they come out crusty and golden so hoped for the best in making my pudding.
There are two types we were focusing on; steamed suet pudding, the sponge type, and puddings using a suet crust.  We could experiment with flavors but since today is the last day to post... and time got away from me..I made the basic steamed suet pudding.
100 grams/4 ounces) All-purpose flour
(1/4 teaspoon) salt
(1.5 teaspoons) Baking powder
(100 grams/4 ounces) breadcrumbs
(75 grams/3 ounces) Caster sugar
(75 grams/ 3 ounces) Shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e., Vegetable Suet, Crisco, Lard)
(1) large egg
(6 to 8 tablespoons) Cold milk

1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder into bowl.
2. Add breadcrumbs, sugar and suet.
3. Mix to a soft batter with beaten egg and milk
4. Turn into a buttered 1 litre/ 2pint pudding basin and cover securely with buttered greaseproof paper or aluminum foil.
5. Steam steadily for 2.5 to 3 hours
6. Turn out onto warm plate, Serve with sweet sauce to taste such as custard, caramel or a sweetened fruit sauce.
The end result was the most surprising dessert.  It tasted a bit like a graham cracker crumb cake.  I'm planning on trying the pudding with the suet crust next.

Completion of the Wilton Cake Decorating class, course 2

Hubby and I just wrapped up our course 2 class last night.  The first course we had to bring in  baked cake, or cupcakes each time.  This time we only had to do a cake for our final night.  The primary method being taught is making flowers from royal icing.  I found it much easier to do the flowers this way rather then the buttercream method taught in the first course.  I still can't get the stinkin' roses correct but I think that has to do with the arthritis I have in my fingers.  I can't sping the nail fast enought... Oh well.  We've signed up for the next course, fondant and tier cakes, which begins next monday.  We will be learning how to make a rose using the fondant and I think I will be more effective in doing them this way.  We still had a bunch of buttercream frosting from the first course so used that up rather than making new colors.  My cake is the one posted above - the basket.  Hubby's is down below.  He was following this design from the book that showed making a woven carriage. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

utterly sinful chocolate chip cookies

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I'm a huge fan of chocolate chip cookie dough, but not so much of the baked variety.  I know, I know... its incorrect to eat raw cookie dough these days.  But hey, I'm just telling it like it is :-)
My son and husband love chocolate chip cookies but we were always in search of that perfect cookie.  One that didn't come out all flat and greasy, nor one that came out to cake like.  This cookie is the one.  Hands down the best baked chocolate chip cookie I have ever tasted. 
I've just become aware of a television show on PBS called, "America's Test Kitchen."  The show has been out ten years so it only goes to show you how far out of the loop I am these days!  They have an awesome web site here that has all the recipes from this season available for free but if you want previous season recipes it will cost you.  This recipe is from the January 2010 episode, "The Cookie Jar."  What intrigued me was that the recipe calls for melted butter.  Nope, not a typo... butter that is melted and browned to release the nutty flavor.  It was a new technique for me but sure worth learning! I followed the recipe by weighing the ingredients instead of measuring.  I also used their "top" taste test choice of chocolate chips; Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.  Be sure to mix the ingredients exactly as the recipe states - it is the key to making these perfectly delicious cookies!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
from America's Test Kitchen

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks 
3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. For best result  adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Melt 10 tablespoons butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Continue to cook the melted butter until butter is dark golden brown (it took me about five minutes).. Remove skillet from heat. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, The trick to this recipe is to let the mixture rest for three minutes then blend for 30 seconds, repeating this process 2 more times. Add in flour mixure until just combined; Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), mix until just blended. 

4. Ok, I didn't follow their directions exactly.  I made smaller cookies using my 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop.  I had to adjust the baking time to 8-10 minutes since I was  making smaller cookie size.

5. The second trick is to only bake the cookies one tray at a time... which I always do any way.. and rotate the baking sheet halfway through.  Made about 30 cookies for me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Daring Kitchen April 2010 Challenge: Brunswick Stew

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The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

We were given two recipes to choose from and I chose the second recipe.  Only my mother and I care for stew in our household and so I didn't want to do the longer cooking version.  As it turned out, my husband liked the stew.  Perhaps I will ateempt the longer cooking recipe in the future.  Until then, Ill go ahead and share the results of the shorter version.  The preference for recipe was not as importatnt as the idea that," Brunswick stew is not done properly “until the paddle stands up in the middle.”
 The variations allowed were:
Recipes may be halved if you choose.
You may substitute any vegetables you don’t prefer. You may use fresh, canned or frozen vegetables. My variations are included in the notes. For example- some recipes include okra in their stew, others use creamed corn.
You may sub out the rabbit for pork, turkey, beef, or even another game animal if you have it available.

This version goes on the assumption that you already have cooked your meats and have broth on hand.
I used the leftover chicken stock I had from a previous challenge.
Brunswick Stew recipe from the Callaway, Va Ruritan Club,
served yearly at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Ferrum, Va.
Serves about 10

2 ½ lb TOTAL diced stewed chicken, turkey, and ham, with broth -
 I used ham, a turkey leg and a cornish game hen.  Stewed in the broth.
3 medium diced potatoes -
I used gold yukon potatoes
2 medium ripe crushed tomatoes
2 medium diced onions
3 cups/ 689.76 grams / 24.228oz frozen corn
1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz frozen lima beans -
I used another variety of bean to make it more appealing to my husband.
4-5 strips crumbled bacon
½ stick / 4 tablespoons / ¼ cup / 56.94 grams / 2oz of butter
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / .5 oz sugar
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / .5 oz ‘Poultry Seasoning’
Dash of red pepper
2 diced carrots (optional)
Tomato juice

The directions given were this:
In large stock pot or Dutch Oven, mix all ingredients, heat until bubbly and hot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato juice as desired. Cook until all vegetables are tender. Serve hot.

I had a bit of confusion and wasn't sure how much broth to used.  The answer given to me was "use enough broth to cover the ingredients."  After I stewed the meat, I pulled it off the bone and then added it back to the broth.  I added the remaining ingredients and let the liquid cook down a bit.  If there wasn't enough liquid, that was when the tomato juice was to be added.  I guess you just add the amount of liquid you want for your stew preference. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's all rubber ducky

I just hosted a baby shower for young lady.  They are having a boy so didn't want too "girly" of a theme.  I'm sooooo not a jock and I just didn't want to go all out on an animal theme either.  That left me with the simple rubber ducky :-)  Yikes... get that song out of my head, get it out!  I've been hearing Ernie sing that stupid song from Sesame Street every single time I see or think rubber ducks!

I wimped out on making a cake myself... I'm very critical and there would be lots of ladies from the church there.  I just didn't feel comfortable with my cake decorating skills... yet.  Someday that time may come.  but I did make some duckies in chocolate molds and some duck shaped sugar cookies that I decorated with royal icing.  With Easter being so close to the date I was able to find some duck-ish decorations.  I would have to say it all turned out rather cute.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lemon Cheesecake

This cheesecake is so creamy and lush that I've made it twice in the past two weeks!  The first time I struggled with the crust so I changed things up a bit and still had a bit of trouble.  Next time I think I will not prebake the crust and see if that makes a difference. The problem I had with the first crust was that it got soggy even wrapped in the tinfoil the original instructions called for.  The second time I followed a tip I found and placed the cheesecake inside one of those plastic oven bags used to cook turkey in.  The crust stayed dry but it was overcooked. the butter inside the crust had just melted so much that it was just hard and flat. 
I found a yummy sounding recipe here at Taste and Tell's blog site.  You can find her exact recipe if you click on the link, otherwise, I'll be posting the recipe with my changes.

Lemon Cheesecake
adapted from The New Best Recipe

For the Crust:
1 package of graham crackers
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
For the Filling:
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 oz.) sugar
1 tablespoon grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 1-2 lemons
1 1/2 pounds (3 8-oz. packages) cream cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (or use vanilla extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the Lemon Curd:
1/3 cup juice (from about 2 lemons)
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

To make the crust:
 Place an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 325F. In a food processor, or blender, process the graham crackers until you have fine crumbs. You should have about 1 cup.  Place in a bowl and mix in the sugar. Add the melted butter and mix until blended through. Transfer the crumb mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly into the bottom.  Let set in refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Remove from fridge and place the pan into the plastic roasting bag.  I did not close the bag, I just had the pan in the bag with the top remaining fully open. You just want the bag to prevent water from getting to the crust. Because of the steam, you will still get a tiny amount of water but it doesn't affect the crust. Set the pan in a roasting pan.
To make the Filling
Process 1/4 cup of the sugar and the lemon zest in a food processor until the zest is broken down and the sugar turns yellow. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in the rest of the sugar.
In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese to break it up and soften it slightly, about 5 seconds. With the machine is running, add the sugar mixture in a slow stream; increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, creamy and smooth - about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to medium low and add the eggs, 2 at a time. Beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl before each addition. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and salt and mix to combine. Add the cream and mix until incorporated, about another 5 seconds. Give the bowl a final scrape and pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough water to make it about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, the sides start to puff, and the surface is no longer shiny, about 55 to 60 minutes. The center should read about 150 degrees F. Turn off the oven and prop the door of the oven open with a potholder or wooden spoon. Allow the cake to cool in the water bath in the oven for about an hour. Transfer the springform pan to a wire rack and run a small paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Let it sit to room temperature for 2 hours. For best tasting results, refrigerate for about 24 hours.

To make the curd
While the cheesecake is baking, heat the lemon juice in a small non-reactive pan on medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, then gradually whisk in the sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot lemon juice into the egg/sugar mixture, then return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 170 F and is thick enough to cling to the spoon, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add in the cold butter and mix until incorporated. Stir in the cream, vanilla and salt, then pour through a strainer into a small nonreactive bowl. Cover the surface of the curd directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
To Serve: 
Top with the lemon curd mixture before slicing in to pieces.  This recipe will serve 8-12 people dep
ending on how big of slices you want. 

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Anniversary Trip

I haven't posted much these past couple weeks because I have been busy, busy, busy! Hubby and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary and took a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon.  We hit some of the bakeries I've read about on blogs as well as two places shown on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  The places may have been considered Dives but the food was divine!  Here are some pics of the highlights.

The first place we ate at was the Arleta Library Bakery and Cafe. With many dishes to choose from, I had the "Portland’s Best Biscuits-n-Gravy."  Slow roasted pork loin comes thinly sliced, nestled between two sweet potato biscuits and smothered in rosemary sausage gravy; served with Library Fries.  While hubby had the "Sicilian Hash."  Their signature dish. Painted Hills natural beef braised overnight then sauteed with peppers, onions,(Which he had them leave out) and potatoes; topped with parmesan scrambled egg; served with choice of toast or scone.

An interesting bakery/cafe to visit was the Bakery Bar.  They had good coffee and an AWESOME Apple Bacon Scone.  Being from Idaho, I'm a bit late getting in on the bacon fad going around.  I didn't realize I was missing out... until I had this scone!  Oh my goodness, if you are ever in Portland you must go to the Bakery Bar and try out this scone! We also bought this cinnamon roll with bacon on top... it was good, but too sweet for me.  I was much happier with the scone.

  I found these adorable chocolates at the Moonstruck Cafe.  I thought they were too cute to eat and then I bit into one! Yummy Yummy Chocolates!

And while I primarily went to "Pastaworks" to check out their line of pastas and kitchen tools, I couldn't pass up trying one of their pistachio cannoli.  Personally, I thought the filling was grainy and didn't care for it at all.  We also visited "The Candy Basket."  Home of the worlds largest chocolate continual waterfall.  While entertaining, it was hard for me to get beyond the "ewwww" factor.  All I could think of was how many times people must of spit into it... or worse.  UGH!

We had lots of fun and hit many other bakeries and cafes.  Not a trip one should take if they were trying to cut back on the calories!  Who knows where we will travel to on our 5Oth anniversary :-)