Monday, October 29, 2007

Pumpkin and spice

That's what pumpkin pie is made of... Yeah it's that time of year. I know the change of season is nice for many reasons but I get excited about change of foods. Sure you can have pumpkin pie any time nowadays, but to me it's the quintessential right of passage to the fall season. The color, the scent of cinnamon and ginger, it all just screams FALL! I crave that first bite of pumpkin pie, ideally to be savored while looking out the window at the changing leaves while drinking a hot cup of coffee. A slightly silly thing to become excited about but oh well, that's what does it for me:) (nerdy I know)
Over the years I've tried several different pumpkin pie recipes, but I always come back the the one on the back of the Libby can for Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie. In my opinion it's the perfect pumpkin pie recipe. I like the balance of the spices and how smooth and silky the pie's texture is when baked. With a few of the recipes that I've tried I was disappointed with the texture of the pie. I've had a few that were slightly grainy. I've never had that happen with this recipe. The only modification I make is I add about 1/2 cup of half and half to the recipe for 2 pies. I think that the pie is just a little more silky with the addition of half and half. I've also recently discovered cinnamon whipped cream. YUM!! It's wonderful with this pie and super simple.
1 cup of whipping cream
1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar (you can use regular sugar if you like)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Whip cream until slightly thick, slowly add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Whip until cream holds soft peaks. Dollop liberally on pie!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Paradise Lost??

Yeah vacation is great, but by the time you go through security, get on the plane for 5 hours, go through customs, reclaim your bags, go back through security (where they confiscate the jerk sauce and other spices you forgot were in your carry-on) wait 3 hours, get on another plane, get in your car that's developed an alarming shudder over the week it sat in the airport parking lot, get home with two suitcases filled to the top with smelly clothes. The vacation glow has worn off and your feeling somewhat less relaxed. Oh yeah, then suddenly remember your rash decision to cater an art museum luncheon for 20 on Monday. No problem. What was I thinking?!
By the way all the food has to be cooked ahead of time and only warmed at the museum because no cooking is allowed. So coming up with a menu that could be made ahead, but still needs look "artistic"(event directors idea), was a bit of a challenge.
So I hit the ground running, shopped for all the food and started cooking.

Salad of mixed greens with apple, blue cheese, spiced walnuts, and cranberries in a balsamic vinaigrette

For the entree I made chicken and mushroom filled crepes with a mornay sauce and asparagus

Unfortunately, in the chaotic frenzy of trying to keep the crepes warm and get them served as quickly as possible, I forgot to get a picture. *sigh* Not superwoman after all:(

The events director for the museum requested that the dessert be made in individual servings and be "something very chocolaty. So before I left for vacation, while surfing through various foodblogs, I came across the recipe for Shockolate Cheesecake on Quellia's blog All thing's edible.

I adapted the recipe a bit for my needs and made these adorable individual chocolate cheesecakes with a brownie crust and Gran Marnier whipped cream.
Perfect! Individual, beautiful and very chocolatey.

This is a low-fat recipe however I used all full fat dairy for mine. I wanted a very rich chocolate taste. I also added 2 tsp Gran Marnier into the batter.
1 x box (15.5 oz/440 g) low-fat brownie mix (I made brownies -not low fat)
2 cups 1% cottage cheese
1 cup light sour cream (not fat-free)
1 x pkg (8 oz/250 g) light cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces (170 g) semi-sweet chocolate squares, melted and cooled slightly (see Tip)
1 cup fat-free egg substitute or 4 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup fresh raspberries
Melted chocolate for drizzling (optional)
Shockolate Cheesecake

I cooked mine in a flat bottomed silicon muffin pan. I undercooked the brownies and took them out of the oven when they had just set up some. Then I let them cool slightly and pressed the brownie down to give as much room for cheesecake on top. I had to watch the cheesecake cook time carefully. Mine took between 20-25 minutes to cook. Take care not to overcook.

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Prepare brownies according to package directions, baking in springform pan instead of regular cake pan. Brownies should bake in 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and reset temperature to 325ºF. Set brownie crust aside to cool slightly while you prepare filling.
To make filling, whirl cottage cheese, sour cream and cream cheese in a blender until perfectly smooth. Scrape out mixture into a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, sift together sugar, cocoa and flour.
Gradually add sugar mixture to cream-cheese mixture and beat on medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Add melted chocolate and beat again, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat just until eggs are incorporated into batter.
Before pouring batter over crust, lightly grease sides of pan. This will help prevent cheesecake from cracking as it cools. Pour batter over brownie crust and smooth top.
Place on middle oven rack and bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Cake will be puffed up and center will jiggle slightly when pan is shaken.
Turn off oven, open oven door halfway, and leave cake in oven to cool for 1 hour. Remove from oven, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cake from sides, and cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, remove sides of pan, slice thinly (it’s rich!), and serve with fresh raspberries and chocolate drizzle, if desired

I whipped cream with powdered sugar and a tablespoon of Gran Marnier and piped that on top. I drizzled chocolate sauce on the plate and topped the whipped cream with grated chocolate and served with raspberries.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A slice of paradise

We went to Barbados for a week and I thought I'd share a bit of it with you all. We had a wonderful, albeit to short, time. We chose to go to there because we have a close friend that is from Barbados and has been trying to get us to go with he and his wife for several years now.

J, the one from Barbados still has some family living there and they graciously hosted a dinner for us on evening during our stay. The wife is a caterer, and she prepared an authentic Bajan meal for us. Outstanding! Hubbs was in pepper sauce heaven! It was neat to see how people really live and not just see the tourist's Barbados.

I would say it was a wonderfully relaxing vacation except for the fact that we also rented a car while there. Thank goodness I didn't have to drive. Every time we had to drive somewhere I felt it might be my last day on earth! The roads are narrow, bumpy, and for and island surprisingly hilly. I feared each time we passed a bus that we may end up careening into a ditch or some one's home. J did a superb job of driving and we did arrive alive to our destinations. Although we took a couple of interesting "detours" while trying to find something called Animal, Flower, Cave. (I'm not making that name up!) I think they're three separate things... I think, still not clear on that. Somehow the men in the front with the map thought they knew a better way than we girls in the back following the street signs. 30 minutes later after several dead-ends into peoples yards,we finally ask a man on the side of the road. He directed us to a "road" through a muddy field to get back to the real road. Men with maps... I'm just saying! Who knew you could get lost on an island?? All worth it for this amazing view!(this is Cave...I think...definitly not Animal?!)

The food in Barbados was wonderful. The seafood is as fresh as it gets and the mango's and banana's are picked ripe and were so sweet.

I had flyin fish for the first time. Very good, we had it prepared different ways nearly every day.

The salt fish cakes at this fun little place we found in Bridgetown were outstanding as was the fresh fish baguette.

I LOVED the pumpkin fritters... taste a bit like fried pumpkins pie. How good does that sound:) yum
We were staying very close to this roti stand that the locals swear make the best roti on the island. I would have to agree. We ate lunch there several times. The food is all prepared fresh and when it's gone it's gone. The best food comes from places like this:

Although we did plenty of eating like this as well:

So for the most part we ate, lay on the beach, ate, walked around town and shopped, ate, swam, ate, walked on the beach, which can really work up your appetite:)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I got Big Buns

Probably not a comment you'd hear from most women, but in reference to sticky buns, the bigger the better. This was my very first Daring Baker challenge and I have to admit I was a little nervous before the challenge was announced. I have seem some of the previous challenges and there have been some doosies! Bagels, I tremble at the thought of making, was a past challenge. There are others as well, Strawberry Mirror cake and Martha's Crepe Cake (shudder). As much as I was looking forward becoming a DB frankly I was also a little scared:) Would I be a total failure on my very first challenge?

So when I found out the challenge was making cinnamon or sticky buns, I was thrilled and a little relieved. Coming from a Pennsylvania dutch background, sticky buns were a fall and winter staple in our home. They even play a part in our Christmas morning tradition. My mother rolls out the dough and fills the center with apricot perserves, then makes inch wide slits around the edges, crisscrosses the the edges across the preserves. She then forms the dough into a candy cane shape and bakes it and tops the candy cane with the powdered sugar fondant we used in this recipe. It's always the one thing everyone can't wait to eat. We all try to get the middle pieces because they've got the most apricot preserves!
Although I've helped mom make sticky buns many times, she has always made the dough. She has it down to a science. I've made them a few times on my own, but with any yeast dough I'm always a little nervous and worry that it won't work right. What if it doesn't rise? Did it rise long enough? Too long?? etc...
I was ready to take on this challenge and WOW where these great buns!


Yield: Makes 8 to 12 large or 12 to 16 smaller cinnamon or sticky buns
6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine**
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon***
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water****
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)

*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.
**I used butter in my dough

***I used the lemon zest

****I used whole milk
1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand); if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast. Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

I used my kitchen-aid to make the dough and found the dough rather sticky so I added about 1/2 a cup or so more flour to get the right texture.

2. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.)I cut mine exacatly 1 3/4 inches.

For sticky buns, coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. (Glaze recipe below)

I sprinkled pecans and currants on top. You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling.

Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.

5. Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.
Mine were this big in about 45 min. so be sure to check them often during this rise.

My Big Buns

6. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.
7. Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.
8. For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack.
Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving.
For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. I was so thrilled when I flipped them out of the pan. They were absolutely perfect!

Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.This may not be possible. The buns look and smell so good, unless you are extremely disciplined you may find this step unnecessary. Hubs and I gave them a good 10 min. before devouring one! YUMMY!

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns
Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.
When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns.
Caramel glaze for sticky buns
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.

I had a ton left over. Oh well. just another excuse to make more buns! I liked the topping but it was a little harder than the cooked caramel topping that I would normally use.

I got 7 buns to fit into my pan and made cinnamon rolls from the remaining buns. They came out enormous and very good as well, but I preferred the sticky buns. Hubs concurs!This was a really fun challenge for me. Great pick Marce!