29 February 2008

I'm a Daring Baker! - Julia's French Bread

Last month, I was pleasantly amazed at all the wonderful support I received from my fellow Daring Bakers. This month, I couldn't wait to get started, especially after I saw that we were making Julia Child's French Bread!

This was the longest, most intensely detailed recipe I have ever seen (you can find it here). I read it through three times before I started, and it was detailed enough that there wasn't a single question I could even image having, other than when I was going to get started!

The execution of the recipe took, quite literally, all day. I knew the bread would be amazing as soon as I started kneading, though - the dough was an absolute pleasure to work with. Easily the most difficult part of the recipe was the two-hour waiting time after it came out of the oven! The bread was crusty and just chewy enough, with a fantastic texture. It was also absolutely delicious. Would I make it again? Absolutely. I'm not sure, though, if I would be able to wait for it to cool off!

22 February 2008

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

When I was a kid, it took my parents more than a little work to get me to eat cheese. Of course, I later came to find that I loved it, so I've spent the last few years trying to make up for lost time. This mac-and-cheese is deliciously cheesy, and the broccoli and chicken flavors really enhance the flavor of the cheddar. It's very rich and easily a complete meal.

Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli

4 chicken breasts
12 ounces small cut pasta
1 (1 pound) bag frozen broccoli
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, rub lightly with olive oil and grill over medium-high heat (in a grill pan) until cooked through. Cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.
3. Boil the pasta according to the package directions. In the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time, toss the broccoli in with the pasta to thaw and warm through. Drain and set aside.
4. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and lightly saute the garlic and onion. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two, until lightly toasted.
5. Slowly whisk in the milk and turn the heat to high. When the milk comes to a simmer, mix in the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Add the chicken, pasta and broccoli to the cheese sauce, then transfer to a large baking dish (13x9 might not be large enough - I usually split between two 11x7). Bake for 20 minutes.

Today, I'm reading... The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair, by Marion Roach.

19 February 2008

Am I a Cupcake Hero? - Mint Julep Cupcakes

These delicious morsels are my entry for Cupcake Hero: Liquor, hosted by quirky cupcake and Tempered Woman.Yes, it's a green cupcake. It also has whiskey in it. Perfect for St. Patricks' Day next month, no?

I'm not going to lie to you, I had no idea how these were going to turn out when they went into the oven. It's the first time I've made my own cake recipe, and the first time I've had this much liquor in my oven. Once they started baking, though, I knew it would all turn out well - the house smelled sooo good! And, true to my expectations, they were delicious.

Mint Julep Cupcakes

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
4 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup Jack Daniels (or other whiskey/bourbon)
1/2 cup Creme de Menthe

3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mint extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease or line 36 cupcake cups.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the extracts, salt, baking powder, and 1 3/4 cups of the flour.
3. Add the milk and liquors to the batter, then the rest of the flour. Mix as little as possible, just until the batter comes together.
4. Divide evenly (I use an ice-cream scoop) among the cupcake cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool.
5. To make the icing, combine the powdered sugar, salt, extracts and melted butter. (I think this works best with a stand mixer with the whip attachment or a hand-held mixer.) Add milk very slowly until the texture is right for piping.
6. When the cupcakes are completely cook, pipe or spread the icing on top and enjoy!

11 February 2008

Beef and Bean Soup with Rice Noodles

After about a week of spring weather, I woke up this morning to find that the temperature outside is hovering around 15F. So, it's definitely soup weather. This is hearty and very pleasantly spicy, great for cold, windy days.

Beef and Bean Soup with Rice Noodles

1 pound beef roast or steaks, cut into very thin strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves grated garlic
2 teaspoons green curry paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, ends removed and peeled
Salt and pepper
1 box (1 pound) rice noodles
1 bag (1 pound) frozen cut green beans

1. Toss the beef with the soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, garlic, and curry paste, and marinate for 1-2 hours.
2. Fill a large stockpot with at least 4 quarts of water (you may add more, or you may need more later, or this may be enough). Season with salt and pepper. Add the crushed garlic and the onion, bring to a simmer, cover and let steep for at least 15 minutes and up to 30. Remove the garlic and onion.
3. Rinse the sliced beef and add to the pot. Let cook, covered and at a simmer, for 30 minutes.
4. Add the rice noodles to the pot, and cook according to the package directions. When they are tender, add the green beans and cook just until beans are thawed. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add water if desired.

- The rice noodles absorb a lot of water, so you may need to add more after they cook, or when you add them if they are not covered.
- You could use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water, just be careful with the salt.

04 February 2008

Dulce de Leche Gelato

Dulce de Leche is a fairly recent discovery for me. Having never tasted it, I decided to make it (using this recipe) - why not? I like caramel, I like vanilla - how bad could it be? Bad enough to have me eating it out of the pot with a spoon, risking burning my tongue. I'm still amazed that I had enough left to make this gelato.

For those of you who may not know, the difference between gelato and ice cream is basically twofold. Gelato is made with more whole milk than cream, while ice cream is made with more cream than milk. In addition, true gelato is churned differently, which results in less air being worked into the finished product. This is difficult to replicate in a home kitchen, but together, these two differences make gelato taste richer than ice cream, while the fat content is actually lower.

Dulce de Leche Gelato

2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, cut in half, seeds scraped out
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dulce de leche
3 egg yolks

1. In a large saucepan, combine the milk, cream, vanilla bean, salt, sugar, and dulce de leche. Bring just to a simmer. While it heats up, whisk the egg yolks.
2. Take the warm mixture in two half-cup measures and pour it into the egg yolks, while whisking quickly. Once this has been combined, pour it back into the saucepan, whisking to combine.
3. Cook the gelato mixture over medium to medium-low heat, stirring or whisking constantly, until it reaches 165F on a candy thermometer. Strain through a fine mesh sieve , then refrigerate for at least four hours.
4. Once the gelato is thoroughly cooled, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to your manufacturer's instructions.

Currently, I'm reading... Uncle Tom's Children, by Richard Wright.

01 February 2008

Scalloped Potatoes

Until fairly recently, I am ashamed to admit, I had never had scalloped potatoes that didn't come from a box. I've always quite liked those, however, and I couldn't believe that I had never made them from scratch. So, I did some research, and poked around the pantry, and came up with these.

Scalloped Potatoes

4-6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the cream and garlic, and season liberally with salt and pepper.
2. Transfer into a large casserole. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and more grated pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a butter knife can slide easily into the potatoes.

- I use a mandoline to slice the potatoes, but you could easily use a knife. Just make sure they are very close to the same size.
- You could use any kind of potatoes, I just faovr the Yukon Golds because they're so creamy.