Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bama Blues

A few days ago Jennifer of Chez Loulou tagged my for this game: find seven blue objects in your house and do a little show and tell. Jennifer lives in southern France. Every time I visit her blog I just want to move to there. The cheese, the wine, the beautiful scenery... I did get the opportunity to visit her part of the world over the summer and it is every bit as wonderful as I'd imagined.

Anyway here's a little show and tell in blue from my part of the world, southern Alabama...Enjoy!

Daisies in blue glass

Blue eggs from our local Farmers Market

 Blue window on a shed at Waterberry Farm


 Polish pottery hanging on my kitchen wall that I bought while living in Germany.

I couldn't do a post on blue with out including my "Tiffany" cupcakes!

Maisy on a blue float in our pool

and finally...a blue enamel milk jug that I picked up at a flea market in Germany. It's my favorite "vase". I just adore it!

Now it's my turn to tag seven people. Tag you're it: Grace of  A Southern Grace, How to eat a cupcake, Apparently Jessy, Elyse's Confectionery Creation, Jamie of Life's a Feast, WhistleStop Cafe, and Rowena of Rubber Slippers in Italy. Find seven blue things  in your home, life, community, whatever and give us a little show and tell into your world then tag 7 other bloggers. Can't wait to see your blues!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge: Puff Pastry...get out your rolling pin!

 I have to say that I was a little nervous about this month's challenge. I've never made puff pastry before and assumed it was going to be very time consuming and probably difficult. Once I got started making the pastry I found that it was fairly easy and although it does take several hours to complete the puff pastry, most of that time is just chilling the dough so that it can be rolled. I enjoyed making the puff pastry and it tastes so amazing I know I'll be making it again! 

The second part of our challenge was to make our pastry in what the French call vols-au-vents, which are basically little pastry shells that can hold a filling. They can be either savory or sweet. I choose to go with a sweet vols-au-vent. I filled mine with apples in a caramel sauce and topped them with ice cream...they were to die for! I made them  for a dinner party I only had one left to photograph

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. 

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter
plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:
Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.
Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)
Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.
Incorporating the Butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.
Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.
To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).
With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.
Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.


Chilling the Dough:
If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.
The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.
-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.
-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chunks or break through the want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.
-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.
-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.
-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.
-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.
-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.
-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.
-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.
-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling
 them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent
In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice
Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)
Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.
Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)
Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)
Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.
Fill and serve
(Sorry I didn't get any pictures of this step but check out Seph's blog a whisk and a spoon for a step by step guide )

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

Did you feel it? Summer has slipped away and Fall is creeping in to take its place. If you're looking to enjoy the last day of summer, look elsewhere!! I'm in a autumnal state of mind. I love the change of seasons not just because of the change in weather but also because it signals a change of flavors in cooking as well. Each season brings with it new flavors and it's own seasonal produce to enjoy and savor. When I think of Fall, visions of pumpkin, apple and spice dance in my head. I've been anticipating all sorts of wonderful things; pumpkin or apple or pecan pies, or maybe roasting marshmallows over a fire while wearing a sweater.
Oh wait... I live in the deep South. Although the temps have dropped from the scorching mid 90's to the balmy low 80's, we're nowhere near sweater and fire weather. Oh well I guess it's time to crank down the air conditioning, turn on the coffee pot, grab a sweater and pretend!  I couldn't wait any longer so I made these pumpkin apple pancakes as sort of a celebration of all the things I love about Fall.

Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbl milled flax seed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup peeled, diced apple

Whisk flour, sugar, flax, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Combine egg, oil, milk, apple and pumpkin in a small bowl. Stir pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients. Let  stand for five minutes. While you let the batter stand make the caramelized apples.
Scoop about 1/3 cup of batter on to a hot griddle or nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray. Turn pancakes when bubbles appear and edges are cooked, after about 2 minutes. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on second side.  Top with caramelized apples and warm maple syrup.

Caramelized Apples 

1 apple, sliced thin
2 Tbl. butter
2 Tbl. brown sugar
Melt butter in a skillet. Add brown sugar and apple slices. Cook stirring occasionally until apples are soft and slightly golden, about 8 minutes.
(Print Recipe)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hawk's Bars, soul food?

When I came across this recipe in this month's Bon Appetit I thought, oh yeah, I"m making these babies soon! Brownie bottom, white chocolate caramel center and dark chocolate ganache on the top...heaven. Unlike the chocolate muffins in my previous post these bars are are pure decadence. No flax seed or wheat flour here, just rich chocolate and caramel. I  made the bars to take along with us to the beach for our vacation and there are no calories in food eaten on vacation. Right?? Besides, as far as I'm concerned chocolate is good for the soul. I think my soul prefers chocolate to chicken soup. Chocolate makes everything better.
Anyway I was not disappointed these brownies were as good as they looked. Although they require several steps,  they are fairly simple to make.

Bon Appétit  | September 2009
by chef-owners Michael Fagnoni and Moly Hawks (these are so good they named the bars after their restaurant!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

White-chocolate caramel: 
3 tablespoons water, divided
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 ounces high-quality white chocolate,  finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
Bittersweet-chocolate ganache: 
2/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Butter foil. Combine 1/2 cup butter and bittersweet chocolate in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Whisk cocoa powder, flour, and salt in small bowl. Whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour butter mixture into sugar mixture; whisk until blended. Add cocoa mixture; whisk until blended. Transfer brownie batter to prepared baking pan; smooth top (layer will be thin).
Bake brownie until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 18 to 20 minutes. Brownie will have a bumpy, uneven surface but allow brownie to cool slightly, then gently press down on edges to form flat, even layer. Cool completely in pan.

White-chocolate caramel:
Spoon 1 tablespoon water into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over and stir. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 tablespoons water, sugar, and pinch of salt in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until syrup is deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 8 minutes. Slowly add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Reduce heat to low. Stir to dissolve any caramel bits. Remove from heat; let cool 5 minutes. Add gelatin mixture; stir until gelatin dissolves. Add white chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk in butter. Pour caramel on top of the cooled brownie; spread evenly to cover completely. Chill uncovered until caramel firms slightly, at least 8 hours or overnight.
Bittersweet-chocolate ganache:
Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Cool until mixture is slightly thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes. Pour ganache atop caramel on brownie; spread just to edges. Chill uncovered until ganache is firm enough to cut, about 4 hours.  

Thursday, September 3, 2009

pet peeves

People that don't use turn signals.
People that read over my shoulder.
People that turn every conversation into one about themselves.
Bad grammar.
People that write checks in the express line at the store.
Wal-mart-pretty much everything about Wal-mart annoys me!
Junk mail.
Slow computers
The term semi-homemade??!!??
Sandra Lee- I'm sure she's a wonderful person...she annoys me.(see previous pet peeve)
People that leave their shopping cart in the parking lot rather than walk a few steps to put it where it belongs.
Men in too short shorts.
People with no sense of humor.
We all have them, those little things in life that just make you crazy. These are just a few things that annoy me. I could go on but I wanted to keep this post to a reasonable length.
What brought on this little rant you ask? I made chocolate muffins a couple of days ago and was reminded of one of the things that really gets under my skin. I get really annoyed me when I'm reading through recipes on websites that have reader reviews and someone writes a review of a recipe that they completely changed and then complain about how they didn't like it. I'm all for using a recipe as a guide and changing it up to suit your personal tastes. Writing a review and sharing the things you changed is fine. I find that very useful. However when someone completely changes a recipe by making substitutions, additions, etc.. that don't work out, it's not the recipes fault. You screwed it up! Please don't rate and review a recipe you didn't make.
Then there are those reviewers that start the review with "I don't like ...but I thought I'd make this anyway and I didn't like it." Okay.  If you don't like ginger and make ginger bread, chance are your not going to like it. Is it really  necessary to write a review?  Major pet peeve! Anyway...

In my continuing effort to eat more healthful foods and sneak in fiber where possible, I bought some milled flax seeds. Flax is a great source of fiber, high in Omega 3's and helps lower cholesterol. All great things. Milled flax seeds can be used in baking and I'd seen a recipe for chocolate yogurt muffins. Mmmm chocolate muffins as health food. Perfect! As I was getting ready to make these muffins, I decided to make a few changes and substitutions to the original recipe. I used Hersey's Special Dark cocoa powder in place of regular cocoa. The darker the chocolate the better for you it is, right? That was a good substitution. The recipe called for vanilla yogurt, I used plain yogurt and added 1 tsp. vanilla. A little less sugar, also good. Everything was fine up till this point. Just as I was measuring out the dry ingredients, I saw the bag of King Arthur half white half wheat flour I'd just bought. Oh yeah a little wheat flour and these muffins are officially in the health food category. It can't hurt to add wheat flour...umm yeah, not the best baking decision. The muffins were still okay but the wheat flour made them too heavy and really changed the flavor. The flax already adds a bit of a nutty flavor but combined with the wheat flour it was just too much. I'm not saying they were throw out terrible just less good then they would have been. Totally my fault. I made a substitution that just didn't work well. Actually I made them a couple of days ago and they tasted better a day or so after later than they did straight out of the oven, or they've just grown on me. So here's the recipe as I made it but except for the flour change.  Without that mistake these muffins would be quite good. And that's my review!

Chocolate Yogurt Muffins

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/3 c milled flax seeds
1/2 c cocoa (I used the Hersey's Special Dark cocoa powder) 
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt 
3/4 c sugar 
1 c yogurt 
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c vegetable oil 
1/4 c milk 
1/2 c chopped nuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or grease.
In a large bowl, blend dry ingredients together. In another bowl, blend yogurt, vanilla, oil, and milk. Add nuts and chocolate chips to dry ingredients and pour in liquid stirring until just blended.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups filling about 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 18 - 20 minutes or until done.
Yields 12 muffins using a regular size 12 muffin pan.