Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Toasted Almond Biscotti

Biscotti, meaning "twice-baked" is one of my favorite cookies to make. The elongated treats are made crunchy by first baking in a loaf, then, slicing in 1/2-inch lengths and baked again.  For all you coffee drinkers...this is a good one for dunking!

My mother never made these cookies, but she would have loved them.  Both Mom and Dad were BIG coffee drinkers; I remember him making coffee, every morning, in a 40-cup urn and they would drink it all day long!  I inherited that 40-cup urn for catering when they toned down their habit to a Mr. Coffee in the 80s:-D  You would think I would also be a coffee drinker, but, no--I'm the only one in eight who has never drank coffee, but I still like these cookies.

The recipe comes from American Test Kitchen which I try to watch every Sunday afternoon on our local PBS station.  I had a chance to meet Christopher Kimball when he came to Seattle a few years ago and have always been impressed by their careful testing of every recipe.  I will say, I did change the method to use my Kitchen Aid, rather than a food processor that they called for.  No particular reason except I think it's easier to clean up.

Toasted Almond Biscotti
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 1/4 cups whole almonds, toasted lightly
1 3/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt*

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Place almonds on a baking sheet and toast for approximately 7 minutes.  In a food processor, coarsely chop 1 cup of almonds and set aside.  Place the 1/4 cup of almonds in the processor and grind finely. (I used my small Cuisinart to do this.)
*I also used roasted, lightly salted almonds, so I did not add the 1/2 tsp. salt.  If you use a raw almond, you will want to add the salt.

Next, in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the two eggs until light in color, about 3 minutes.  While the mixer is running, gradually add the sugar and beat an additional 1-2 minutes after it's been all added.
The trick to good Biscotti, that I learned in pastry school, is not to over mix the flour.  So, I sifted the flour and baking powder (also salt, if your nuts were not salted) together and removed the bowl from  the stand to fold it in.  Add the chopped and ground almonds and stir to combine.

On the bottom side of parchment paper, draw two rectangles 3" x 8" and place it on a baking sheet.
Divide the dough between these rectangles and spray a rubber spatula with a baking spray, lightly, to smooth the dough. Make sure you have about 4-inches between the two rectangles to account for spreading.
Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes.  The Biscotti will rise and the tops will "crack" slightly.
Remove from the oven and cool 20 to 30 minutes.  Transfer the cookie "loaf" including the parchment to a large cutting board.  Use a serrated knife to slice--slightly diagonal--1/2" wide.

Place the biscotti back into the oven and bake again for 25 to 30 minutes.  I rotated the two pans after 15 minutes to get an even browning.
These lovely treats are going to my family for Thanksgiving--a time for giving. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Brown Butter Pecan~Poppy Seed Loaves

Thanksgiving looms around the corner--I just put away the Halloween decorations and ate the last of the candy corn.  My mother loved this day and we'd get up very early to start the preparations...from the bird to dessert, we did it all in a kitchen that was no bigger than 8' x 10' to be served in a dining room not much larger!  It was Thanksgiving that I made my first yeast rolls at age 7; a memory that stays with me always.

Thanksgiving became a Federal holiday, proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln, in 1863 during the Civil War.  The first recorded feast was in 1621 after the first harvest by the Colonists and shared by Native Americans as well.  The "sharing" is what I remember from my school days so baking today, I decided to make a recipe with an extra loaf.  I've made lots of pumpkin and cranberry breads to share, but thinking of my mother, I came up with one that she would have loved--butter pecan.

Brown Butter Pecan~Poppy Seed Loaves

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 T poppy seeds
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray two 9"x4" loaf pans with a baking spray and cut a piece a parchment for the bottom and spray again.

Start by browning the butter.  Place in a sauce pan and on medium heat, melt the butter.  It will take about 7-8 minutes to turn a nutty brown after "foaming."  Add the vegetable oil to the pan and set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together thoroughly.  Add the vanilla extract.
Add the poppy seeds and stir in.  Add the oil/butter mixture and mix together to combine.  Sift the dry ingredients and add to the mixture, alternately with the milk.  Stir in the pecans.
Pour (or scoop) the batter into the prepared pans and place in the preheated oven.  Bake 55-60 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out cleanly after poking it in the center of the bread.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a rack or bread board.  Glaze if desire.

Brown Butter Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 T unsalted butter, melted and browned
1 T light Karo syrup
2-3 T very hot water

Brown the butter in a small sauce pan.
Pour it over the confectioners' sugar and add the Karo syrup and 2 Tablespoons of hot water.  Whisk until smooth, adding more hot water as needed to make a thick glaze.  Spread over the warm bread.
 Once cool, cut into the loaf and wrap up another to give--that's what Thanksgiving means to me. Enjoy!
My new Woodland Leaves dies adorn this card I made to go with the bread that reads, "The measure of a home is the friends who frequent it!"

Do you make Thanksgiving dinner or go to family/friends for the holiday?


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Caramel Apple Corn & November's Give-Away Apron

The last issue of King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet arrived this week and the first thing that caught my eye was this caramel corn with subtle hints of apple.  The author (G.A.) of the recipe says, "while visiting the Tunbridge World's Fair, her snacking options were narrowed down to a caramel apple or an apple crisp."  She chose the crisp, but the craving for the caramel apple stayed with her.

I can certainly relate to this.  I've made caramel corn every holiday over the last 10 years to give as gifts, but this Autumn version may be sent earlier for Thanksgiving to my family:-D

Caramel Apple Corn
15 cups popped corn (1/2 cup kernels unpopped)
1 cup unsalted (or I used lightly salted) peanuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried diced apples (our grocery was out, so I used Apple Chips)

2 T molasses
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup

3 T boiled cider 
1/2 tsp. baking soda

I used my Cuisinart Pop Corn Maker--1/2 cup corn kernels
Place the popped corn in a large bowl and add the peanuts, cranberries, and diced dried apples or apple chips.
Preheat oven to 200F-degrees.  In a large sauce pan, over medium high heat, cook the molasses, brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and it reaches 250F-degrees on a candy thermometer.
Pour the mixture over the popped corn ingredients in the bowl and stir until the corn is well coated.  Spread the hot caramel corn onto a parchment lined baking sheet (18" x 13").
Place caramel corn into the preheated oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and break apart.  I transferred the mixture back to my large bowl to cool, but it's certainly delectable warm from the oven...I know!

These cute little pop corn boxes were a find at The Container Store and with a cellophane bag around it, tied with a beautiful ribbon or sealed with a sticker, will make a hit with my family. Enjoy!

This month's apron was inspired by the last blossoms on my Hydrangea--subtle shades of pinks as the color fades with the passing cool days. 
 If you comment on any of the posts this month, you may be the winner of this apron--absolutely one of my favorites so far! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gingerbread~Pecan Bars & October's Apron Give-Away Winner

Halloween is barely past and Christmas decorations have popped up in the store...and it's turned chilly with snow falling in some parts of the country, so the smell of gingerbread just seemed like the perfect thing to bake.

Typically, gingerbread is made with honey or molasses and ground ginger (sometimes fresh ginger is added too.) It was introduced to Europe in 992 by an Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis who taught gingerbread baking to French Christians then, crossed over to Germany and Sweden in the 13th century because it was thought to have medicinal properties.  That makes sense, because when we were sick as children, my mother always made sure we had ginger ale around:-D

Gingerbread would evolve over the next several centuries and besides the cake version, cookies are widely baked, especially at the holidays.  I know it's one of my hubby's favorites and that's why I came up with this recipe.

Instead of honey or molasses, I tried a new ingredient--Lyle's Golden Syrup.  I have this on my shelf because we love Anzac Biscuits and this is a key ingredient.
The bars have a chewy consistency because of this ingredient and along with the pecans (which are grown in the South,) these treats will definitely be in my cookie boxes this holiday.

Gingerbread~Pecan Bars
9T (1 stick + 1T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
1 tsp. ground Ginger
1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie spices
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
40 pecan halves

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Line a 10" x 15" baking sheet with parchment, allowing it to lay over the sides of the pan for easy lifting out the bars after baking.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and Golden Syrup thoroughly.  Add the spices and beat once more until fluffy.

Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium, just until the mixture comes together.  Pat dough into the prepared pan.
Use a paring knife to score--in half, then in quarters and longwise, space 5 across to give you a total of 20 bars.
Place 2 pecan halves on each bar and bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
While still warm, cut through the score lines and allow the bars to cool in the pan.  You can lift them out using the extended parchment paper.  Serve with a glass of apple cider...which is how we had ours!  The aroma in the kitchen is wonderful--Enjoy!

Now, this month's apron winner is: Moonstruckcreations.  Please email me your address so I can get this apron out to you to enjoy. Tomorrow, November's apron will be up--I promise.

Today is the anniversary of my mother's passing; 27 years ago at age 67.  Way too young to leave us, but she taught me so much during her short time.  I feel I'm always attached to her apron strings and it's with love I honor her with this blog.  Thank you all for being a part of my memories.

Lastly,  I'm sharing a photo I captured of two of the kittens (Harper and Clara) while they slept.  It reminds me that we should let our family and friends how much they mean to us--you do.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pschyedelic Witch Embedded in Asphalt Cupcakes

A few years ago, I did a recipe, based on a "thumbprint cookie" with the same idea of an orange witch hat embedded in asphalt.  Well, I'm at it again.  I could blame it on all the contruction cones I've come across lately, but admittingly, it's missing laughing with Kelly over this ridiculous comparison we heard one evening while watching a comedienne do her skit.  We both cracked up and to this day, it's one of my favorite phrases when I pass a construction cone to comment on.
photo courtesy of the internet
To make the cones or witch hats, I used Bugles--remember those corn snacks from the 60's?  They were the brainchild of a food engineer named Joe Applebaum, who worked for General Mills. They are fried in coconut oil, unlike most snacks which used Soybean oil, and they come in a number of flavors.  They're pretty addictive and it was adventure to find a store that still sold them.
Over a double boiler, melt orange wafers.  Scoop out almost half of the melted wafers onto parchment paper and spread to about 1/8".  Dip the Bugles into the mixture and set on top of the rectangle.  Allow to dry completely.
Black Velvet Cupcakes
6T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 T shortening
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2T Dutch-processed cocoa
2T Specialty Dark cocoa by Hershey's
1 T black food coloring gel
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1T apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening together.  Slowing add the sugar while the mixer is running and beat together for 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating them into the batter thoroughly.  Again, scrape the sides.

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa's with the food coloring, then, add the boiling water and stir to combine.
Sift the flour and salt together.  Add the buttermilk and vanilla to the cocoa mixture.  Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the cocoa/buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
In a small bowl, add the vinegar to the baking soda.  After it finishes "fizzing," add it to the batter and beat on low just until combined.
Use a #20 scoop to fill the cupcake liners (almost 3/4 full).  Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes (don't over bake or the cupcakes will be dry).
While the cupcakes are baking, make Chocolate Butter cream. I used an apple corer to remove a "plug" from the cupcake so I could pipe some of the butter cream into the center.
Now, it's just a matter of piping the butter cream, adding some Cocoa Krispies around the sides (I thought that gave it a nice touch to resemble gravel in the asphalt.)

 Finally, I used a paring knife to cut a square around the cone and placed it on top of the cupcake.
I definitely have a big smile while I construct these cupcakes and think Kelly would be laughing too. Enjoy!

A dear friend sent me this today and I want to share it:

At birth we boarded the train and met our parents, and we believe they will
always travel on our side.  However, at some station our parents
will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.  As time
goes by, other people will board the train; and they will be significant
(i.e., our siblings, friends, children and even the love of your life.)
Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.  Others will go so
unnoticed that we don't realize they vacated their seats.  This train ride
will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hello's, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers
requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is: We don't know at which station we ourselves will
step down.  So, we must live in the best way, love, forgive and offer
the best of who we are.
It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down
and leave our seat empty, we should leave behind beautiful memories
for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.  Reap success and give lots of love.  
More importantly, thank God for the journey.

Last, I thank you for being one of the passengers on my train.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homemade Velveeta Cheese

Would it surprise you to know that Velveeta Cheese was invented in 1918 by Emil Frey of the Monroe Cheese Company in Monroe, New York?  It was sold to the Kraft Company in 1927 and reformulated to the cheese spread I grew up with in 1953.  The name comes from its velvety texture which is a result of combining the whey with the curd to produce a smooth, clump-free cheese which maintains its integrity when heated--unlike cheese that separates at a higher temperature.

I recently came across this blog post by PJ Hamel of King Arthur Flour with the title, "The Secret Ingredient Chefs Won't Admit Using: And How to Make It At Home."  Well, that piqued my interest yesterday and I made my first block of Homemade Velveeta!  Apparently, lots of restaurants use it in making their Mac & Cheese dish and others swear by it for a superior grilled cheese sandwich.   I can honestly say, I've used Velveeta for years to make both of these...and of course, the Ro*Tel cheese dip for parties--who hasn't!  Now, I can rest assure I'm not incorporating preservatives that may be harmful; PJ says, "this recipe comes from Michael Symon, Food Network's Iron Chef and restaurant owner/chef and will keep in the refrigerator for one month.

Homemade Velveeta Cheese
First, line a 9" x 4" x 4" loaf pan with plastic wrap.
6T dry milk (I used Baker's Special Dry Milk
1/4 ounce dry unflavored gelatin (a little less than a 1/2 tsp.)
In a food processor, blend the dry milk and gelatin briefly just to combine.

Add 1 cup boiling water to the mixture and process until smooth, IMMEDIATELY, add 16 ounces of shredded cheese.  I used 8-ounce bags of sharp shredded cheese, but you can also use mild.
Process until totally smooth.  Pour or scoop the mixture into the lined pan and make sure it's wrapped securely--no bare surfaces showing.  Refrigerate for several hours.

I removed the block from the pan and wrapped it in plastic wrap, then wrapped it in aluminum foil and placed it in my cheese drawer of the refrigerator.  I think Mac & Cheese is for dinner tonight:-D Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lemon Chess Squares

Chess Pie has its historical roots in England and brought to America where it has become just as beloved.  A simple custard type of pie, similar to vinegar pie, these bars hit the mark for allowing you to "pick up" the square as a snack rather than serve a formal dessert.  In the South, Chess Pie has been changed up with the addition of lemon, which is fine for me.

Lemon Chess Bars
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. milk

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, then spray evenly with a baking spray.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.  Add the egg and beat until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients, milk and lemon juice and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together.  Transfer dough to the baking dish and use your fingers to press evenly into the bottom.

1-8oz pkg. cream cheese
3 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 (1 pound) box confectioners' sugar, sifted (this is also called icing sugar)

In the same bowl, switching to the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the lemon zest and the confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed until mixture is smooth.  Pour the mixture over the dough, spreading it out to cover.  

Bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly and the top is lightly browned.  Let cool completely, then, cut into small squares--they're very rich so small bites are a good thing.
A quick snack or add some raspberries, a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar and serve as a dessert.  Enjoy!