Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers: Croissants

This months Daring Bakers' challenge was a wee bit complicated. Just a few tiny steps. Uh huh, sure. Try more like fifty steps! While it does appear to be quite frighteningly complicated, if you are good at reading instructions than it is rather easy. Unfortunately, instructions to me always read to me like a foreign language. Good thing my husband was around to give a hand!

Blog-checking lines: The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash

 Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little. Measure out the other ingredients. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar. Place the flour in a large bowl.

Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl.Knead the dough eight to ten times only. Place the dough back in the bowl .Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size
Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches.. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up)

 Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge

Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.Once the dough has doubled it’s time to incorporate the butter

Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat.
Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.

Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). . Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle
Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges.
Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book). Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).

Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). Fold in three, as before. . Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). . Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising)

It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out into a 20 by 5 inch rectangle (51 cm by 12½ cm). Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches (25½ cm by 12½ cm))
Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold
Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches (38 cm by 12½ cm). Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches (12½ cm by 12½ cm)) Place two of the squares in the fridge. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour

Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water
Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.
Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely
Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cake mix cookies challenge: Caramel Corn Cookies

This has been a crazy month with all the garden produce coming in at once.  Why does that always happen? I've been canning like crazy and still trying to keep up on my challenges.  I'm managing pretty well, only I haven't been keeping up with posting on my blog.
It is with deep sadness that I will have more time on my hands now and should get back into the swing of things.  My husband had lost his job in May and although the circumstances weren't ideal, I loved having my husband home the past four months!  He started a new job today and will be missed greatly during my days.  I think retirement is too far off!  Miss you Neil!
Anyway, This month's Cookie Carnival Challenge was to create a cookie using a boxed cake mix.  I wanted to try and create one of our favorite fall treats; Caramel Corn.  While they are not quite the caramel corn flavor I was looking for, I did get thumbs up reviews from the cookie bunch! The cookie carnival is  great and is always looking for new members.  Pop on over to Tami's site and join us today~

Caramel Corn Cookies
1 box Betty Crocker Vanilla Cake Mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups crushed Kix cereal, divided
1 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup Kraft Caramel Bits (found in the baking aisle with the chocolate chips.. I think they are a seasonal item)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine Cake mix, eggs and oil; mix well together.  Add 1/2 cup crushed Kix cereal, peanuts and caramel bits, blend well.
Roll 1 tablespoon of dough into remaining Kix cereal and place on lightly greased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper instead),  and space two inches apart.
Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Let cool on cookie sheet two minutes before placing on cooling rack.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bacon and Feta Pasta

One of the best things about the Secret Recipe Club is you get tons of great recipe ideas.  One recipe immediately jumped out at me since it had the words bacon and pasta in the title. The recipe is from Crumbs and Chaos, but I had to make several adjustments to make it with the ingredients I had on hand. The original recipe calls heavy cream and I like to substitute evaporated milk when asked for in sauces.

Bacon and Feta Pasta
8 ounces pasta of choice  (I used linguine)
8 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
4 stems of fresh thyme, leaves removed
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled with additional for topping if desired 


     Cook pasta to al dente according to the package directions.  
While the water is boiling, heat a large skillet over medium heat.            

Add sliced bacon and cook until crisp.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Wipe skillet out with a paper towel.
Add butter to skillet and melt over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms.  When the mushrooms are soft, add garlic, thyme and evaporated milk.  When the milk, is warm, add feta and stir gently until melted.  Season with pepper and add bacon back to pan.
Add cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.  
Serve immediately with feta sprinkled on the top.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Vegchiladas

Another entry into the Secret Recipe Club begins. At the beginning of each month you are assigned a blog to browse through and recreate a recipe. I had the wonderful pleasure of exploring Eilonway's  blog, "My Emu is Emo."  The blog is a combination of her love of cooking and music.  Not only did I get to view fabulous sounding recipes but I was also challenged to expand my horizons with new musical sounds.  At first I was reading all her fun posts without even thinking about finding a recipe!  I have to admit that I am a huge lover of music and have quite the eclectic collection of my own.  After reading my fill, I went back through her blog and focused in on choosing a recipe.  It just so happened that my mom, who lives with us, has been craving nachos and so I zeroed in on her post for " Vegchiladas get earthy, spicy and complex."  As luck would have it, we had all the ingredients on hand.  It was very good and a nice alternative to having meat on your nachos.

Vegchiladas (click on the link for her versions)
2 yams
1/2 an onion
1 can beans (I used S&W Pinquito beans with onions, peppers, cumin and garlic)
tortilla chips
cojito cheese
salsa  (I used my own canned version)
sour cream

Clean and  dice your yams.  I halved my yams diagonally then cut into half again. I then cut into 1/4 inch chunks. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees F., until tender. It me about 1/2 an hour for yams to get tender.
Dice onion and place into warmed medium skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Drain beans and add to cooked onion.
Layer chips with yams
Top with bean and onion mixture.  Add cheese layer.  Repeat.
Serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Zucchini "Apple" Pie

With my abundance of zucchini this year, I decided to break down and try a recipe I have saved for many a year for Zucchini Pie.  Rumor had it that this pie tasted like apple pie.  I was skeptical.  I was very skeptical. However, I was running out of ideas with what to do with zucchini and I did find this recipe to be quite intriguing. I read a few different reviews online and took a few of the tips; use small zucchini and boil it.
The end result was quite fabulous.  In fact, I was so amazed by how this tasted that I had to take over three pieces to my in-laws to try and Neil's grandmother.  My father in-law is brutally honest and I suspected that he would find something to say about it.  Wrong! He practically licked the plate clean! They were all surprised by the taste and couldn't believe zucchini could taste like an apple pie. Feeling a little skeptical yourself?  I can't blame you.  But if you are willing to take the chance than this pie would be a pleasant surprise!
Zucchini "Apple" Pie 
no known source, have had this recipe for years

6 cups zucchini
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 tablespoon butter
pastry for two crust pie

Peel the zucchini, cut lengthwise, remove seeds and slice 1/4 inch thick
Cook zucchini slices in boiling water for 2 minutes.  You want the zucchini to still be tender and a bit firm. Drain zucchini.  Make sure the zucchini is well-drained and cool or else the sugar mixture will be a mess.  Tip: Mine still was quite liquid even after letting it cool and drain.  It did not affect the pie.

In a bowl, toss the zucchini with the sugars, cinnamon, cream of tartar, cornstarch and salt until well blended.
Place pastry in 9-inch pie pan.  Fill with zucchini mix.  Dot with butter and drizzle the vinegar of the the zucchini mixture.  Top with crust.  
Bake for 12 minutes at 475 degrees F.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another hour. Tip: I forgot to cover my pie rims with tinfoil and they burned slightly.  Be sure to keep rims covered until last half hour of baking.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Icebox Cake... ish

This month our Have the Cake challenge was to make an Icebox Cake. I had never heard of an Icebox cake and the process certainly was intriguing.  I didn't follow any set recipe and I didn't exactly use cookies either.  During our last vacation, Neil and I went to a Russian grocer store.  On the shelf were these packages of thin wafers, about 1o to a package.  We bought a package with the intent on figuring out how exactly it was used in  Russian recipes.  While we have exactly figured that part out, but we did have success with using it in our version of the icebox cake.
These are the wafer layers... please, if you have any idea how they are supposed to be used, do tell! 
I did alternating layers using ganache and a whipped cream/cream cheese mixture.
I iced the cake with the remainder of the cream cheese/whipped cream mixture and then sprinkled on mini chocolate chips.  We were too impatient to let it set over night, but we did wait a good eight hours! Turned out to be super yummy!

      Icebox Cake
1 package dry wafer sheets
3 cups whipping cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a medium bowl, add whipping cream and confectioners sugar, mix until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and mix once more.
In a small bowl,  mix softened cream cheese until whipped.  Gently fold into whipped cream.
Melt together the chocolate chips with the 2 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream; blend until smooth and creamy.
Take one wafer and top with a good sized dollop of whipped cream/cream cheese mixture; smooth over wafer. Repeat making three layers. On the top of the third wafer, spread some of the chocolate ganache mixture.  Follow this with another layer of the whip cream mixture and alternating with chocolate layers until you have three wafers remaining.  For the final three wafers use only the whipped cream mixture. 
Ice cake with remaining whipped cream.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, if desired.
Refrigerate over night. Keep leftovers in refrigerator.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

hazelnut apricot cookies

Life sure gets busy when you have a little one running around and a garden.  I must confess, the little sweetie wins every single time.  She will only be little for a short time and grandma has to get her fill! During nap times I'm able to get things done and have been up to my ears in zucchini... those recipes will come very soon.  For now I will share with you yet another cookie for my cookie rotation.  I make anywhere from two to four batches of cookies a week for the Walden house.  It is a bit like the Ronald McDonald house, only geared for adults.

While cookies can't really qualify as "nutritious," these cookies are full of healthy-ish ingredients.... if you forget about the shortening and sugars! Ok, so they aren't going to get me a dietitians' award.  They will, however, get me tons of smiles and happy tummies!
Oregon Hazelnut Oatmeal Cookies
From the Oregon hazelnut Industry
1 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups quick oats, uncooked
1 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
1 cup finely dice dried apricots
1 cup chopped vanilla milk chips

Combine shortening, sugars, eggs and vanilla in large bowl.  Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Stir into creamed mixture with a spoon.  Stir in oats and hazelnuts.  Toss apricots with 1 tablespoon flour; stir into dough along with the vanilla chips. 
Shape into 1 1/2-inch balls and flatten slightly.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 11 to 13 minutes, or until slightly moist in center and just beginning to brown around edges.  Remove from sheet immediately to cooling rack.
yields about 3 dozen cookies