Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year Lentil Soup


Everyone has their New Year traditions. Some people go to Times Square to watch the ball drop and some people clean out the fridge and make bean soup. Which kind of person are you? If you're the second type, you're in luck because this is the last time Times Square will be mentioned in this post.

Now, bean soup. The New Year is all about moving on and starting fresh. That's why I want to use up everything hanging about from the last month or so of holiday food shopping. Onions, check. Carrots, check. Organic celery, check. Beans, check. More to the point, lentils, check. It only helps the process that it's snowing and I'm just getting over a vicious cold. It would seem that lentil soup is the order of the day. 

And wouldn't you know that lentils are considered to be one of those lucky foods that you should eat on New Years Eve to insure good fortune in the coming year.  After just reading that article I found out cooked greens are also lucky so I added baby spinach to the finished soup.  Finely chopped they'll cook just from the heat of the soup.

I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year filled with endless possibilities! If there's something you want to do, now's the time to do it. Don't limit yourself and keep an open mind. I started this blog in July of this year, it's just an infant, but I look forward to a new year of cooking and eating and I hope you'll join me. My thanks to everyone who's reading along. Thanks to those who left comments to let me know about missing ingredients. Thanks for all the positive feedback. Thanks to Julie from Willow Bird Baking and her amazing challenges that got me out of my comfort zone and into some inventive baking! And Thanks to Jenni from The Gingered Whisk and all the fine bakers over at Sourdough Surprises bringing the versatility of sour dough to the light of day.

So go have yourself an awesome celebration and I'll see you next year!

happy new year lentil soup

1/2 cup lentils, washed and drained
2 medium organic carrots, chopped in 1/2 inches
2 medium organic celery stalks, chopped in 1/2 inches  
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Place all ingredients in a medium pot and cover with water (maybe 3 to 5 cups). Simmer over a medium heat until the lentils and vegetable are tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile start the mirepoix.

mirepoix 

1/2 organic carrot, finely chopped
1/2 organic celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon herbs de'Province (if you got 'um)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons flour

Heat oil in a medium, heavy bottomed pot or small Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add all ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until everything is golden and tender. If the mixture is getting too brown, lower the heat. Once the mixture has cooked down, stir in the flour.

finishing the soup 

1 to 2 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon cooking Sherry
a couple of drops of Kitchen Bouquet
another 1/2 organic carrot
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup baby spinach, finely chopped (organic if you got it)

Stir 1 cup of vegetable stock into the mirepoix and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and stir in cooked lentils and vegetables. If you don't have a lot of water left from cooking the lentils use the other cup of vegetable stock. If you have too much water reserve some of it. You may not need it  now but it'll come in handy tomorrow if the soup thickens. Add Sherry and Kitchen Bouquet and adjust the seasoning. Take that 1/2 carrot and grate it with a microplane or other fine grater directly into the soup (I trick my husband learned from his Nana). Cook for 5 or 10 minutes so all the flavors can come together. Remove the bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and top with chopped spinach. Makes 4 servings.








Monday, December 24, 2012

Chocolate Satin Torte

         

When it comes to Holiday desserts it has to be chocolate. You need something elegant, rich and simple. And easy, because you're already up to your ears in a to-do list. You need a cake that comes together quickly but still has the proper wow to close the feast. You need a one layer cake. You need a cake that doesn't need frosting. You need Chocolate Satin Torte. So what if you have to cook it in a water bath. If that's the hardest thing about this recipe, I don't want to hear any complaints.  Oh, and you must wash your mixing bowl midway through the recipe, that's key.

Chocolate Satin Torte is like the best candy bar in the world merged with a cloud of euphoria.  If you're worried about fat content, turn the page now. We're talking butter, heavy cream and eggs here. But the good news, a skinny slice of this is really all you need, along with a soupcon of whipped cream and few drops of raspberry sauce. 

Now go enjoy your Holidays! I wish you all a happy, happy time and a blessed and peaceful New Year. 

chocolate satin torte

12 ounces of good quality dark chocolate, cut into small chunks (I used 60% but you can go darker if you like)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup strong brewed black coffee (or 1/4 cup hot water and 1 tablespoon instant coffee)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan with a circle of parchment paper and set aside. In a large heat proof bowl melt chocolate, butter and coffee over a pot of water on a very low simmer, stirring once or twice. Once the mixture is melted take it off the heat and set aside. 

In an electric mixer whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and transfer to a bowl, keep refrigerated until needed. Wash and dry mixing bowl and whip attachment. Beat the eggs on high, slowly adding the sugar. Add vanilla extract and continue beating on high until the eggs are pale and have double in volume, about 3 to 5 minutes, set aside.

Using a few, quick strokes with a whisk or spatula gently fold whipped cream into melted chocolate. When all the whipped cream is incorporated, gently fold in eggs, again using a few quick strokes. 

Pour batter into prepared pan. Fill a larger pan with hot water about 3/4 of an inch up the pan. Place the pan of water in the oven and carefully place the cake into the water bath. Bake for 25 minutes. Cake should feel slightly bouncy but firm when done. Remove from water bath and let it set for 5 to 10 minutes. Chill for 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.

To unmold: Run a clean, wet knife or small decorating spatula around the side of the pan. To loosen the cake, place the pan over a low flame and turn it so the entire bottom is heated. Sprinkle the top of the cake with a little white sugar, this will help keep it from sticking when it's cut. Place a cake circle or serving dish over the cake and carefully invert the dish and the cake pan. If the cake doesn't come right out try heating it over a low flame again. Cut the cake using a hot wet knife and clean off the knife after each cut. Serves 12 to 16.

raspberry sauce

1 jar raspberry preserves
2 tablespoons water

Heat preserves and water in a small pot over medium heat just until it comes to a boil. Strain the mixture in a fine mesh sieve. Chill for 2 hours.












Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stuffed Acorn Squash



Is there anything cuter than an acorn squash? I ask because I bought my first acorn squash recently and I can't stop thinking how cute it is; I'm wondering if this is normal or if I need an intervention. That squat figure, those curvy ridges, the creamy innards, who can resist it? And is it ever good for you! Like Vitamins C and A, calcium, iron and fiber good. And I feel the need for some serious sustenance 'cause I've been having cookies for dinner since the first week of December.

As beautiful as the acorn squash is to look at it's that much better roasted and stuffed. Quinoa seems to be the most fashionable grain of choice at the moment for stuffing your squash, not that I need an excuse to eat quinoa, so I just had to put my spin on it. I went with sweet and nutty as in dates, apples and walnuts. Half a squash would be sufficient for lunch. The whole she-bang would do for dinner just add a side salad.  

stuffed acorn squash

2 acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each squash in half around the middle and remove all the seeds. I like to clean out the center with a spoon just to make it nice and even for the filling. Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until fork tender. 

filling

3/4 cups quinoa, washed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 small apple or 1/2 large, peeled and diced
4 or 5 dates, pit removed, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
salt and pepper to taste

While the squash is roasting, cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Once the quinoa is cooked, heat the  oil in a large skillet on medium high heat, add onions and cook, stirring often until onions begin to get translucent. Add the thyme, apple, walnuts, quinoa and dates and lower the heat. Cook just until everything is heated through and adjust the seasoning.

Stuff the roasted squash with filling and place back in the oven for 10 minutes. Makes 2 to 4 servings.







Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sourdough Rugelach


This month it's all about cookies so it's no surprise that that's the theme for December's Sourdough Surprises. I gotta tell you I struggled with this one simply because I wanted to try so many cookies. My mind was spinning like a wheel of fortune. Almond honey cookies (like Torroni, only cookies), Pumpkin cookies (I had some pumpkin left over from Thanksgiving), apple cookies (I've been wanting to do an apple cookie so why not), biscotti (yummmmmm, sourdough biscotti), rugelach (yep, rugelach). And around and around.

Somewhere along the way orange came into the picture and I got the bug to make some candied orange peel. This came out of left field but I went with it and the candied peel turned out great. I found this outrageously delish looking cookie and this equally scrumptious looking one and I started hatching a recipe.

And then I just make rugelach.

Yep, rugelach. I found this recipe in a Bon Appetite article about Sarabeth's so long ago that it was probably when she only had one location. And look at her now! I remember my husband's face when he first tried them. His eyes got really big and he couldn't talk. He took another one, rolled his eyes and explained "these are the best things I've ever tasted!" I think they're so good because they're part pastry and part cookie and all tastiness but super easy to make (as long as you  chill your dough)!

I love that you can make rugelach so many different ways. While the dough stays fairly constant you can fill them with different jams, nuts, fruits, chips. Roll them into a crescent shape or jelly roll fashion. Give them a sprinkle of confectioners sugar or leave them au natural. They're all so dang good! My default combo is raspberry preserves, cinnamon sugar, walnuts, currants, crescent shape. But I've been known to do apricot preserves, raisin, pecan, chocolate chip  in a roll up. Or orange marmalade, dried apricots, hazelnuts... you get the idea. But I always, always, always, always, always give them a liberal dusting of 10X. I was quite interested to see how a sourdough version would turn out. And the verdict is in: a complete success! The dough was tender and flaky, the perfect compliment to the sweet, crunchy, chewy filling. 

Yep, so glad I went with the rugelach!

sourdough rugelach

1/2 cup butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration)
1 cup white whole wheat flour (plus more for rolling)
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup raspberry preserves
3/4 cup currants (more or less)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (more or less)
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Beat butter and cream cheese on medium in an electric mixer until combined. Scrap the bowl, add sugar and beat to mix. Add vanilla extract, starter and flour and mix on low until mixture comes together to form a sticky dough. 

Transfer dough to a clean, lightly floured surface and knead every so briefly and gently. Form a disk, about 4 to 5 inches across, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or better yet, overnight.

When dough is thoroughly chilled preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough in half and work on one portion at a time, leaving the other one in the fridge. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 14 X 6 inch rectangle. Make sure you always have just enough flour under your dough so it doesn't stick, but don't overdo it or the cookies will be tough. Working quickly, before the dough becomes soft and impossible to roll, spread a thin layer of preserves up to a half inch on the longest, far side of the dough (you want to leave this last part to tuck under the cookies). Next sprinkle the preserves with cinnamon sugar, followed by the currants and walnuts. 

Starting at the longest side near you roll the dough onto itself and away from you. Don't worry about getting it tight, you want a little room for the dough to expand. Keep rolling until you get to the end and make sure the uncovered part of the dough is on the bottom of your roll.

Using a sharp knife cut the roll into even slices that are a little more than 1 inch wide. Repeat with the other pack of dough. Place  cookies on trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes. Spin the trays and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly brown around the edges. Sprinkle cooled cookies with a generous amount of confectioners' sugar. Makes about 30 cookies. 



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Star Cookies


Here's a cookie so pretty you'll want to hang it on your tree. I call them star cookies but to tell the truth they didn't always go by that name. They started out as cut out cookies and we made them every Christmas in every imaginable shape and decorated them with royal icing. I'm talking to you bears-in-bating-suits! Then someone got the bright idea to use a heart shaped cutter and fill them with jam. And later we cut a smaller heart out of the top cookie and voila, the rest is history. Along the way I've also done a lemon curd filling as well as a version of the Girl Scout classic with caramel, chocolate and toasted coconut.

This dough is very sturdy but tender and not too sweet so it can take all that jam and confectioners sugar no problem. The tricky part is getting the dough even when you roll it so all the cookies are the same thickness. Once you do your first roll and cut the cookies out, you can roll the scraps two more times. It does tend to get too tough if you roll it out anymore than that however, so try and cut out as much as you can from the first rolling so you don't end up with lots of scraps to begin with. 

I've given the ingredients for a large batch of the dough which makes about 5 dozen sandwich cookies. If you don't want that many, wrap up the unused portion and store in the fridge, it'll keep for 4 or 5 days or freeze half the dough. Also you could cut the recipe in half, I won't think any less of you. But I recommend  making it all and freezing. Considering all the possibilities this dough has to offer it's not a bad thing to have on hand.

star cookies

1 pound of butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 cups white sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups white all purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
1 cup raspberry preserves (more or less)
confectioners' sugar for the tops

Cream butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer to combine. Add sugar and beat on medium until light and fluffy, About 2 or 3 minutes. Scrape down your bowl. Add yolk and vanilla extract and beat just to blend in. Add flour in a couple of additions, beating on a low speed just until incorporated and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. 

Divide dough in two equal portions and form into a disk shape about 5 or 6 inches across. Wrap tightly and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Remember you could also store one pack in the freezer for later use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the dough is thoroughly chilled remove it from the fridge and let is soften up until it's still firm but pliable enough to roll. You may want to cut it in half and roll one piece at a time. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Check to make sure you have enough flour under your dough otherwise it will stick and give you a struggle when it comes time to cut out your stars. But don't overdo it, too much flour and the cookies will be tough!

Cut out your stars and place them on a cookie tray lined with parchment, leaving about one inch between each cookie. Repeat until all the dough is rolled. Make sure to cut out half of the cookies with a circle or star shape as these will be tops.

Bake for 6 to 7 minutes, spin the trays and bake an additional 6 to 7 or until cookies are  very lightly brown around the points of the stars. Once all the cookies are baked and cooled you can start filling.  Take all the tops and put them as close together as you can on a cookie tray. Give them a good, even dusting and set them aside while you fill the bottoms. 

Spread each cookie with about 1 teaspoon of preserves. Once all the cookies are filled, carefully top them with the sugar dusted ones. Makes roughly 5 dozen cookies. 







 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sourdough "Yoga" Bread


Time to step back from the sweet and do something healthy. Like this "Yoga" bread. 

I had some starter left over from my cookie experiment (more about that later this month). And my phone (via Flipboard) suggested I make this bread.  I wasn't doing much, just making cookies, two different ones. And nursing a sick dog and cleaning the kitchen floor and laundry of course. So I thought, heck yea, make some bread.

I was struck by how similar this recipe was to the bread I usually buy (when I do buy bread which isn't often 'cause have you ever read the label, so much junk in bread) manufactured by The Baker called Yoga bread. It doesn't have all that extra whatever they put in bread to make it last longer. But it does have lots of good things like millet and cranberries and nuts. 

Did some tweaking, besides the starter, like added millet and used black strap molasses, extra butter. Cut the recipe in half, let it rise a little longer (cause I didn't use fast acting yeast). It was super spectacular hot out of the oven with a schmear of butter and later toasted with butter and jam. Oh yea, now this is my kind of healthy.

'yoga' bread (adapted from Gourmet)

1 & 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (plus some for rolling)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 & 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup millet, soaked in water for 5 minutes and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup warm milk
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration)
3 tablespoons butter (plus more for the bowl and pans)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup dried cranberries
corn flour for dusting the pan (optional)

In a large bowl combine flours, yeast, millet and salt. In another bowl combine water, milk, brown sugar and sourdough starter and stir into flour mixture. Add walnuts and cranberries and stir until dough forms.

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until dough is smooth. Form a ball with the dough and place it in a buttered bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm spot and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Punch down the dough and knead it briefly just to smooth it out. Divide into two and form each half into a roll. Place each into a small loaf pan that has been buttered and sprinkled with corn flour (or just butter if you don't have corn flour). Cover with plastic warp and a clean towel and let rise for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size. 

Sprinkle tops with a little flour and place on bottom rack in the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When the loaves are fully baked they should sound hollow when struck on the bottom. Remove from pans and cool on a rack. Makes 2 little loaves. One for you and one to give away (I gave one to my neighbor and she loved it)! Should last a couple of days warped very tightly or slice and freeze for up to 1 week.









Saturday, December 8, 2012

Candied Orange Peel

Besides the fact that you'll never look at your garbage the same way again, there's something alchemical about candied orange peel. You're basically turning something that you would otherwise throw away into golden sweet candy. If that's not alchemy I don't know what is. There's something magic and very Willie Wonka. I mean you're making candy over here. It's pure genius really. And simple and sweet and addictive and so pretty. And only 2 ingredients if you don't count water.


They're perfect for rounding out a cookie tray or wrapping up by the dozen for a twee candy box for that special someone. And also just what the Doctor ordered for midnight munchies when you're up late baking. Not to mention you could add them into other recipes as well. And if these suggestions aren't what you're looking for they keep for a couple of weeks in a dry, airtight container until you make up your mind.

candied orange peel

2 large navel oranges
1 cup water
3 cups white sugar (plus more for coating)
4-8 oz dark chocolate, melted (optional for dipping)

Cut each orange into half right across the middle. Slice each half into halves and halves again so you end up with 16 wedge shaped pieces of orange. Remove all the fruit and membrane of the orange leaving only the peel. Reserve fruit for another project or just eat it. Now, cut each wedge of peel in half again. You should end up with 32 (more or less isosceles) triangles of peel. You could cut them in half again if you wish but I chose to keep them this chunky triangle shape. 

Now, don't skip this next part because it's basically the secret behind the success of the recipe. It's the science behind the magic. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil throw in the peels, boil for about a minute, turn off the heat, drain the peels. And repeat. Twice more. That's right bring the peels to a boil in three different changes of water. I can't tell you why this works because frankly I don't know, I'm an accountant not a scientist (or an alchemist), but I'm sure it's out there somewhere if you desperately need to know. 

Once your peels are thrice boiled bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium, heavy bottomed pot. Try not to stir it too much or you'll get sugar crystals forming on the side of the pot. Throw in your peels, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure all the peels are getting an even coating of sugar syrup. When the peels get soft and start to look translucent they are pretty much done.  

Have a shallow dish of sugar ready. Drain the peels, reserving the sugar syrup for tea or rock candy. Coat the peels a few at a time in sugar and transfer to a drying rack. The peels will need to dry at least 24 hours or more before you can wrap, store, dip them in chocolate or use them in a recipe.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Peppermint Bark Chocolate Crackle Cookies


According to Wikipedia candy canes go way back. Way back to 1670. I want to believe it's true because I love traditions that go way back. Especially Christmas traditions. Peppermint bark is a more recent but no less minty custom, combining bits of candy cane with white and dark chocolate. And then along came the newest in this long line of pepperminty Holiday traditions- peppermint bark chocolate crackle cookies. It's  the turduckin of Christmas treats with a fudgy brownie texture and a subtle peppermint bite!

peppermint bark chocolate crackle cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa
1 & 1/2 ounces melted dark chocolate
6 ounces peppermint bark chopped into small bits (about 1 cup)
confectioners' sugar (for sprinkling on top)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Scrap the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa and make sure the salt and baking powder get totally mixed in. Add dry mix to butter mixture and beat on low, scraping the bowl once or twice to make sure everything is incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and beat on low just until everything is comes together. Add peppermint bark and mix to combine.

Scoop cookies out (about a tablespoon each) onto trays lined with parchment paper leaving about 2 inches between each scoop and give them a good healthy shake of confectioners' sugar. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Makes about 30 cookies.