Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Sweetie claims he doesn't like chard. For a long time we never had chard, but then I discovered Rainbow Chard, with those bright red and yellow and orange stems, along with the white and pale yellow ones. The leaves also have some of the brighter colors to match. They just look like a party when those colors and the deep, deep green are all together when the chard is in a bunch.
So I made Rainbow Chard and Spinach as a side dish for a recent party I cooked for a friend (for pay), accenting the chard and spinach flavors with onion, currant and lemon zest. But Sweetie wasn't there to taste it. He did sound interested when I described it later. Unfortunately, no photos.
Then a couple of weeks ago I decided to use the chard in the garden in a quiche for dinner. The sauteed chard was hidden on the bottom of the blind baked pie shell, along with caramelized onions and mushroom slices and some diced Swiss cheese. On top I put broccoli florets . A savory egg custard was poured over all of it. Once baked up nice and golden, it was lovely and smelled wonderful. Sweetie really enjoyed that quiche, even after I admitted that I had sneaked in some chard, too. You really can't tell from looking at the baked quiche that there is chard in there.
It really is a delicious vegetable, especially if you don't over-cook it. Fresh tasting, good for you, only a touch of bitterness to pique your taste buds. Chard.
Can you spot the chard hiding out with the other vegetables?
Swiss Chard and Spinach with Onions, Currants and Lemon Zest
1 large bunch chard, well rinsed...regular or Rainbow. If you can, buy organic for this recipe.
10 oz fresh baby spinach, well rinsed
1 small to medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic flavored olive oil
1/4 cup dried currants
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
Chop the chard across the leaves in one to two inch strips, removing most of the chard stems if they are tough. If they aren't tough, chop a few into a small dice and include them. Leave the rinse water on the leaves. If any of the baby spinach leaves have very long stems, remove the stems. Leave the rinse water on them.
In a large saute' pan with a lid, heat the garlic flavored olive oil and saute' the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the chard strips, stems, and the spinach leaves. Using tongs, stir and turn the leaves to coat them with the oil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and let steam for a few minutes until just wilted. Add the currants and lemon zest, cover, and cook one more minute. Serve at once. Serves 4-6.
Chard and Other Vegetables Quiche
One pie crust, blind baked for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F., then cooled. (Line the pastry-lined pie pan with parchment, fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice, then bake and cool. Remove the pie weights, beans or rice and store for another blind baking experience). I use a ready made pastry round available in most grocery stores in the refrigerator case.
1/2 bunch fresh chard, well rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6-8 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons grape seed oil (or olive oil)
4 oz. Swiss cheese, in 1/2 inch dice
1 head of broccoli, in small florets
2 large eggs
1 cup whole or low fat milk
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Slice the chard leaves in 1-2 inch strips, discarding the stems. Set aside Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a saute' pan, cook the onion, garlic, and mushrooms in the grape seed oil over medium-low heat until caramelized, stirring often, 10-15 minutes. Add the chard, turn the leaves with tongs to coat them with the oil, cover, and steam for 5 minutes. Set aside.
Sprinkle the Swiss cheese dice over the bottom of the partially baked pie shell. Over the cheese, spread the chard mixture. Over that evenly sprinkle the broccoli florets. Beat together the eggs and the low fat milk. Stir in thyme. Pour the mixture over the vegetables and cheese in the pie shell. Grind a few grinds of fresh pepper over all (or shake a bit of pepper from a shaker).
Place pie in the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until center just barely moves when pie is shaken. Cool for 5- 10 minutes, then serve warm. Serves 6-8.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Happy Holidays to everyone!
(Yes, the back is better...thank you to all who left kind and sympathetic messages...you are all great!)
Sunday, December 23, 2007
It was not the easiest log to get started, but soon he had it burning and discovered that it had a wonderful unexpected charm…no matter how long it burned, it never seemed to get smaller.
As the days grew shorter and the night longer, the woodcutter became sadder and sadder. He missed the sunlight. Sitting in front of the Yule log, he took a nap. Hoping to cheer him up, his goodwife gathered her bowls and spoons and flour and sugar and eggs and butter and began to bake something wonderful.
First she made a flat layer of a cake like a sponge…called a genoise. Here she is sifting in the flour mixture, then folding it into the beaten eggs and sugar mixture.
While it was baking she made a delicious chocolate and Amaretto flavored buttercream. Once the cake had cooled enough to handle, she laid it on parchment and brushed it with more Amaretto liquor.
Then she spread half the buttercream over the cake and rolled it up like a jelly roll. A quick chilling soon had it firm enough so that she could work the magic she had in mind.
She cut off the ends at an angle, showing the swirl of light cake and darker buttercream. One of those ends was placed on the side of the roll. Oooh now do you understand? She is making a charmed log of her own!
The log and branch were then swirled with the rest of the buttercream. Now it really looked like a single piece of wood, especially when she took the tines of a fork and pulled them through the buttercream to look like bark.
For the final decoration, she had planned to create meringue mushrooms to place in tiny clusters about the log. Unfortunately she slipped on a mossy step and hurt her back, so no mushrooms. A dusting of confectioners sugar gave the appearance of a light snowfall.
When her husband awoke from his nap, she took him gently by the hand and brought him to the sideboard where the beautiful log she had made was sitting. Smiling sweetly she told him that this log, this Buche de Noel, was her Christmas gift to him. It would be gone much, much faster than the magic Yule log he had brought home, but it would carry memories of their time together this Christmas tide and the joy of sharing the cake with friends and family. She told him that she would make another one each year to remind them of the light returning to the world that Christmas brings.
The woodcutter was wonderfully cheered by the cake, impressed with her baking skills and with his goodwife’s kindness in making it. He knew that it would be a merry Christmas indeed.
As a Winter Solstice gift to you, Gentle Reader, the Daring Bakers from all over the globe have made many, many Buche De Noels. Our hostesses Lis and Ivonne, also the founders of the Daring Bakers, have chosen a superb recipe that reminds us of the presence of light during the darkest time of the year. Thank you Lis of Mia La Cucina and Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice for this holiday gift, for all of your work in the background making this baking group such a wonderful online community, and for starting it all with a recipe for pretzels a little over a year ago.
I had never made a Buche de Noel and had such a good time playing with it that I again used the convention of a fairy tale to tell about making the cake. Unfortunately, the slip and fall is true, so that is why no mushrooms. *Sigh* Gentle Reader, the story is my own (as is the last one), but there are many stories today around the blogosphere. Check out the other Daring Bakers’ Buche de Noel’s by going to the Daring Baker Blogroll here. The recipe can be found at the bottom of this post if you want to make your own to capture your own winter memories.
(from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert)
Daring Bakers Challenge #14: December 2007
Hosts: Daring Baker Founders Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice) and Lisa (La Mia Cucina)
Posting Date: Saturday December 22, 2007 or Sunday December 23, 2007 (Note: To accommodate the fact that some of you want to serve this for Christmas, for the first time we're allowing you to choose your posting date. You can post on the Saturday or the Sunday.)
Recipe Quantity: Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated
1. A genoise cake using the recipe below
2. A coffee buttercream frosting using the recipe below (Note: For those of you that have an aversion to coffee, you can use another flavour for your buttercream, however, the buttercream must be dark in colour. We don't want any white or cream-coloured Yule Logs!
3. Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms using the recipes below
Additional Information about Challenge:
If you are not going to use the coffee buttercream to fill your log, be sure to have the filling ready once the genoise comes out of the oven. If you do fill your Yule Log with fruit or with soemthing other than buttercream, please note that you may not be able to freeze the Log because the filling may not last.
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch
one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again
1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.
Assembling the Yule Log:
1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
1 cup milk or dark chocolate chips
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring.
When the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil, raise the heat and bring the mixture to 290 degrees on a cooking thermometer (soft crack stage.) It will be light brown in color, and syrup will separate into threads that are not brittle when dribbled into cold water.
Quickly stir in 1/2 cup chopped almonds. Immediately pour the mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Wait 2 or 3 minutes for the candy surface to firm, then sprinkle on the chocolate chips. In a few minutes, when the chips have softened, spread the chocolate evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the remaining almonds over the melted chocolate.
When the chocolate hardens, crack the candy into pieces. Store covered.
This recipe from CDKitchen for Almond Roca serves/makes 1.5 lbs
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I'm going to use her excellent wording:
I will send a handmade gift to the first three people who leave a comment on this post requesting to join this Pay It Forward Exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, which is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is Pay It Forward by making the same promise on your blog.
So, if you have a blog and you like the idea of giving away stuff you’ve made to folks who read your blog, then leave me a comment and I’ll start dreaming up what to make you. Just make sure you send me an email address so I can get in touch with you about how to get that gift into your possession.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Now I've been part of many, many potlucks over the years. This one was the only one I can remember, especially at Christmas time, where only one dessert was brought. We had all manner of salads and three sweet potato dishes, rolls, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, ham, but only one basket of cookies. Perhaps healthy eating is becoming fashionable?
My contributions included a dolled up version of my favorite corn salad (another future post will include the recipe), plus a new recipe that I found in Southern Living Magazine's collection of recipes called Our Best Recipes, Volume 4.
This is the perfect thing to bring to a party. It can be made ahead, no pots and pans are required so it's no-mess, the ingredients are easily found and not too expensive, it is fairly healthy, it looks festive and colorful, and it is delicious. Who could ask for more?
The dish is called Mediterranean Chicken Couscous (although I made it with chunks of turkey). It would also make a great addition to your holiday buffet. Hope you find a chance to make this one.
Mediterranean Chicken Couscous
Serves 8 (more if part of a buffet or potluck)
1 1/4 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 (5.6 oz.) package toasted pine nut couscous mix
3 cups chopped cooked chicken (or turkey)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 (4 oz.) package crumbled feta cheese
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Garnish: fresh basil leaves
(Note: You'll need to buy a 2/3 oz. package of fresh basil and 1 rotisserie chicken to get the right amount of basil and chicken for this recipe. Substitute 3-4 teaspoons (I used 3) dried basil if you can't get fresh. 3 cups of leftover cooked chicken or turkey in large dice works fine, too.)
Microwave chicken broth and seasoning packet from couscous package at HIGH for 3-5 minutes or until broth begins to boil. Place couscous in a large bowl, and stir in broth mixture. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, stir in chicken and next 6 ingredients. Serve warm or cold. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts, if desired.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
"Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without ... eating cookies," is a perfect reason to get out the baking sheets and the mixing bowls and bake some great cookies. These would make a great addition to the cookie platter or a delicious gift. I'm taking a box of these to a Christmas Party on Wednesday and I know they will be a hit.
Dorie Greenspan, from Baking From My Home to Yours
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup solid vegetable shortening (I substituted 4 oz. unsweetened applesauce)
½ cup sugar (I used dark brown sugar here)
½ cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I mixed walnuts and pecans about half and half)
1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit (I used a combination of diced apricot, dried pear, dried apple, plus some golden raisins and dried cranberries)
2 cups chocolate chips
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the apple sauce and mix well, about two minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another two minutes. Pour in the molasses and beat for 1 minute more.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the oats, then add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Toss in the nuts, fruit, chocolate chips and coconut and, turn the mixer on and off quickly a few times to incorporate.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared pans, leaving about 1 ½ inches between the mounds.
Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until the cookies are golden and just about set. Remove the baking sheets to cooling racks and let the cookies rest on the sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool to room temperature.
These cookies were so dark from the dark brown sugar and the molasses that it was a bit difficult to tell when they were done. They were moist and the nuts, fruit, chocolate and coconut were barely held together by the dough. The molasses flavor was strong when the dough was unbaked, but the fruits and nuts mellowed the molasses flavor when baked.