Monday, January 30, 2006

Chunky Brownie Frozen Yogurt

I much prefer gelato or frozen yogurt to ice cream. Ice cream tends to be a bit rich for me and I don't love the way that it's unctuousness seems to coat the inside of my mouth, making me incredibly thirsty. But while gelato and frozen yogurt are delicious, they don't usually come with all the various extras that ice cream does, like peanut butter swirls, chocolate fudge ripples or cookie dough chunks. The easy solution to this was to, of course, add my own in.
I have a recipe for frozen yogurt that I really love. It's sweet and creamy, with that slight tang from the greek yogurt that I use. It's usually a struggle for me to resist eating it until after its been through my ice cream maker. But I'm always rewarded for my restraint.
After taking this batch out of the ice cream maker, I folded in some chopped up, frozen brownies. If you're thinking that you won't be able to restrain yourself when you have made a particularly good batch of brownies, don't worry. The brownies I used were leftovers from a less-than-perfect, rather cakelike batch that froze suprisingly well. Not only do they actually taste better frozen, they keep for ages, just waiting to be added to things like frozen yogurt. But if you can set aside a few of the good ones, by all means do so. Take note that it is better to fold the chunks in once the yogurt is semi frozen, as the ice cream maker will break them up too much.
Do I really have to say what a fantastic combination this is?
If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can simply pour the unfrozen yogurt mixture into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer. If you give it a good stir every 45 or 60 minutes, it will turn out quite well. The greek yogurt, again, is thicker than most ordinary yogurts, so I urge you to strain your yogurt for at least and hour or two over cheesecloth if you cannot find a thick yogurt at your local market.

Chunky Brownie Frozen Yogurt
2 egg whites, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar (castor or superfine, if you have it)
3 1/2 cups nonfat yogurt (500 grams)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 - 2/3 cup chopped, frozen brownies

Whisk vanilla into yogurt until it is smooth and set aside.
Beat egg whites until they nearly reach soft peaks, then add sugar gradually while beating at medium-high speed until you have soft peaks and the sugar is dissolved, 4-5 minutes.
Fold yogurt into egg whites in 3 0r 4 additions, making sure it is very well incorporated. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze as directed (or without an ice cream maker, as described above). Fold in brownie chunks.
Store in an airtight container in the freezer if not eating it right away.
Serves 4.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Artichoke Ceasar Salad

I find it difficult to write actual "recipes" for salads. In my experience, people do not often measure the amount of lettuce, tomato, etc. that they are adding. You add whatever you have on hand and you add how ever much of it as you want. Maybe people don't eat a lot of salad at home because they are put off by this lack of black-and-white instruction. Maybe they are afraid of making a bad salad. Here's the thing, though: you can't really make a bad salad.
Sure, some salads are going to be better than others, but with vegetables, dressing and some sort of lettuce, you really can't go too wrong.
I like my salads simple and this one is no exception. I used canned artichoke hearts and broke up some garlic toast crackers for croutons. The garlic toasts were a packaged version of crostini that came in a gift basket I received over Christmas. I hadn't expected to use them, but they proved to be great crouton substitutes. The artichoke hearts were packed in water, not oil, which I find much too greasy. Everything else I already had on hand, like lettuce and light ceasar dressing. The whole thing proved to be incredibly delicious, light and refreshing, in a nice contrast to a lot of heavier winter fare.
This salad can be made for one or for ten. Use or as much or as little of the following ingredients as you want to, but be sure to use croutons of some sort, since a ceasar salad just isn't the same without croutons.

Artichoke Ceasar Salad
A mix of romaine, iceberg and red cabbage
red onion
artichoke hearts, packed in water
garlic croutons
light ceasar dressing
salt and pepper

Sliver red onion. Chop artichoke hearts into quarters.
Mix lettuces, cabbage, red onion and artichoke hearts in a large bowl with light ceasar dressing. Add croutons and season with salt and pepper, tossing once more before serving.

Friday, January 27, 2006

SHF # 15: Sugarless Friday

The temptation to do a vegan recipe for this round of Sugar High Friday was high, with a theme of avoiding sugar from our host, Sam, of Becks N Posh. I considered going this route for some time before choosing not to. Honestly, I make quite a few vegan recipes and often simply experiment with them because the challenge of baking without eggs is fun for me.
I specifically wanted to find a nonvegan recipe for this event, as it would give me a chance to experiment in baking without sugar, without taking into account anything else. Interestingly enough, though I'm certain that many other participants will find recipes to fit the theme, there did not seem to be a huge number of non-vegan recipes that didn't use sugar at all.
I chose this Honey Tea Bread for its simplicity, as it only has a few ingredients (except for the spices, of course) and no added fat. It seemed almost too good to be tru to have a recipe for this even that was low in both fat and sugar, and yet this bread turned out to be delicious. It was easy to make and had plenty of sweetness, both from the honey, the tea and the dried fruit. I used Rooibos Vanilla tea, but a chai or other sweet-spiced tea would work very well in this recipe, too. The loaf has a crisp crust and a soft interior when it is freshly baked and makes fantastic toast, with a little bit of butter and extra honey optional, of course.

Honey Tea Bread
from Waitrose Illustrated )
1 1/4- 1 1/3 cup raisins and dried cherries
1 1/4 cups strong, hot tea (I used Rooibos Vanilla)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Place raisins and cherries in a large bowl. Pour strong, warm tea over the and stir in the honey. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 1/2-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Stir two eggs into raisin mixture.
In a small bowl, mix flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Add to raisin mixture and stir thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
Turn loaf out of pan and cool on a wire rack.
Makes one loaf.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cooking School: Eggless Chocolate Bundt

The wacky cake aka crazy cake is sometimes known simply as a dump cake. Interesting and appetising names aside, it basically comes doen to one thing: this cake is made all in one bowl and has no egg, dairy or other animal products. It is leavened by the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. The recipe originated in wartime, when there was a shortage of eggs, butter and milk, but managed to stand the test of time. This isn't surprising at all if you have ever made one of these cakes, since they are supremely simple. In fact, if you are not using a bundt pan, the whole cake can be mixed in the pan.
The other reason they have stood the test of time is obviously the taste. These cakes have a moist, light texture and an excellent chocolate flavor. The interior of the cake, which unfortunately cannot be seen in the photo above, is quite dark and rich looking, though the cake has none of the heaviness that can result from "richer" chocolate cakes. I much prefer this sort of cake to dense ones, because I find that the relative lightness goes very well with coffee or tea, not to mention that I migh have room for a second piece.
There are lots of recipes, all with slight variations, for this cake as simple, one layer cake. Bundt recipes seem to be much more difficult to find. The advantage to using a simple square baking dish is, again, that the cake can be mixed entirely within it, but bundt cakes look a little more interesting and I'm willing to dirty one bowl when I cook.
The cake is actually vegan, but there is no way to discern that from tasting it (if you can ordinarily taste the eggs in your cakes, you might want to rethink the recipe you're using). The glaze I made is not vegan, though I'm sure that vegan equivalents could be substituted. It's thick and chocolatey, as well as easy to pour. It also sets firmly, so it is easy to slice through. It makes a great bundt glaze for a 9 or 10-inch cake, but could just as easily be spread on top of a round or square cake. The richness of the chocolate glaze is the perfect contrast to the light, delicious texture of the cake and the cake as a whole turns out to have a peasantly dark chocolate taste.

Eggless Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
9 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9-inch bundt pan.
In a large bowl, sift together flour and cocoa powder. Whisk in sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Pour in water, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and vinegar, whisking thoroughly, but quickly, until the batter comes together and is quite smooth.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes at 350F (my oven was a little wonky, so do check with a toothpick), until a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when gently pressed.
Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cake as cooled, top with any glaze.

Satiny Chocolate Glaze
(based on this Hershey's recipe)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp bittersweet chocolate chips (like Ghiridelli)
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt chocolate chips and butter together in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, bour in heavy crea, followed by vanilla. When glaze is smooth, pour or spread onto cake. Let cake set out for at least 2 hours to allow the glaze to set up.
Makes enough to glaze a 9 or 10 inch bundt.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chewy Cheesecake Cookies

A while back, I saw a picture of some luscious looking cream cheese cookies at dessert comes first. Shortly thereafter, I received an e-mail request for cheesecake cookies. I knew I had to try.
Cream cheese in used in many cookie recipes to enrich and soften a butter dough, but the flavor is subtle and often blends in with the butter. If you are told that there is cream cheese in the dough, you might taste it, but otherwise it is not an obvious flavor. This was the biggest challenge to overcome, since too much butter would overwhelm the cream cheese. I settled for an equal amount of butter and cream cheese. I needed enough flour to give the cookies a nice, stable texture and used an egg to bind everything together.
I have experimented a bit and this is the best version I have come up with so far. They are soft, chewy and definately remind me of cheesecake, though perhaps cheesecake crossed with a sugar cookie. I did not include any vanilla because I didn't want to mask the relatively delicate flavors, though a little bit surely wouldn't hurt. Don't over bake them or they will firm up and loose that soft cheesecakey texture.
These cookies keep very well, so you can store them in an airtight container for several days.

Cheesecake Cookies
½ cup cream cheese, soft
½ cup butter, soft
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup ap flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese. Gradually beat in sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and salt.
Whisk together baking powder and flour in a small bowl and, mixing by hand or at low speed, add to cream cheese mixture.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, until the bottom edge just barely turns brown.
Makes about 3 dozen.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Semi-Rustic Masa Bread

When I think of a rustic bread, I picture long, slow rises and large holes punctuating the chewy interior of a dark, crispy loaf. It has to be hand-shaped, too. I don't generally think of short rises and a fine crumb or texture. I chose to call this bread semi-rustic because it seems to have properties of both categories.Both the feel and flavor of the bread give it a sense of rusticity. There are no large, chewy holes here, but the bread does have a medium, fairly open crumb. It is a darker loaf with a crisp crust, and cutting it into wedges gives it a very casual edge when it comes time to serve it. Of course, it is still fairly quick to put together, with no overnight rises and the use of active dry yeast.
The secret to the bread is that I added some masa harina - the finer, lime-treated type of cornmeal used in tortilla making - which gave the bread a slightly coarser texture than most breads and a hint of corn tortilla flavor. The hint of lime (as in limestone, not the citrus) is what really makes the bread different.
Rustic or not, this bread is unusually tasty. It is particularly good with butter or used to sop up soup (try a spicy soup with it). You will get the best results with bread flour, as the higher protein content will help the bread to rise .

Masa Bread
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 ½ cups water, divided, warm (110F)
2 tbsp sugar
½ cup masa harina
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 cups bread flour, plue more if necessary
coarse cornmeal, for baking

In a large bowl, combine yeast and 1/4 cup of the water. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, until slightly foamy. Add sugar, masa harina, olive oil, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour. Mix well. Add remaining flour gradually until the dough pulls together, away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowel, covered with plastic wrap, to rise until doubled - 1 1/2 hours.
After the rise, turn the dough out onto your lightly floured surface and gently deflate the dough. Shape into a round loaf and place on a baking sheet that has been well covered with cornmeal. Cover dough with a clean dishtowel and let rise for 35-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425.
Brush loaf gently with water before putting it into the oven.
Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, until dark gold and hollow sounding when the bottom is tapped. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Cut into wedges to serve.
Makes 1 round loaf, 10-12 servings.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

This is almost a repost of something I did over at Slashfood this week, but the cake is very good and I wanted to share it here, too. This Cinnamon Struesel Coffee Cake is a Martha Stewart Living recipe that I adapted by changing the spicing slightly. It was originally meant to be a cardamom streusel cake, but I was not going to toast and grind a bunch of whole cardamom pods just to make streusel when cinnamon is such a natural fit for coffee cake. I did use some cardamom , but it was pre-ground.
If you're not familiar with coffee cake, it gets its name because it is designed to be served with coffee or tea, as part of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal, not for dessert. The reason must be that coffee cakes are never frosted and, as you know, almost anything is acceptable breakfast food when it doesn't have a thick layer of frosting. This cake is very rich, moreso than some desserts and definately less good-for-you than something I might make on a whim in the afternoon but it is classic comfort food and a great choice for special occasions or a brunch when you're having guests.
The cake very nearly has more streusel than batter, and it was difficult to spread the batter over the streusel layer without swirling it into the cake. I used my spatula to gently and carefully push the batter over to the sides of the pan. I used half non-fat yogurt and half buttermilk instead of all low-fat yogurt. The original recipe gave an incorrect baking time, which I have corrected here. It only called for 50 minutes in the oven, when the cake needed at least 10 more minutes.
The cake is moist, rich and delicious. It is not a light cake, but it is very tender and does not seem heavy or dense. I loved how simply pressing the streusel mixture into big chunks before spreading it on the cake resulted in professional looking and tasting topping. Aside from the hitch with the incorrect baking time being given in the recipe, I didn’t have any problems and found the recipe to be fairly simple. My hands got messy making the streusel, but I just had to avoid answering the phone while I did it.
The recipe originally said this serves 10-12, but I far prefer to cut it into 16 or 20 smaller slices. You can always take a second piece.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
For the Streusel:
2 ¾ cups ap flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom (or additional cinnamon)
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened

For the Cake:
2 ½ cups ap flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, very soft
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups plain yogurt or buttermilk (low fat or nonfat)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.
Make the streusel:
Place all your streusel ingredients, except for the butter, in a large bowl and stir together. Cut the butter into 10 or 12 large chunks and add them to the bowl. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is crumbly. Some pieces can be large - the size of an almond or pecan - but they shouldn't all be that big. It may take 4-5 minutes because it is a bit harder to work with soft butter than firm. Set aside.
Make batter:
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat eggs in one by one, followed by vanilla extract.
Alternately add the yogurt (or buttermilk) and the flour mixture, making sure to end with an addition of dry ingredients. Don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you mix.
Scrape half of your batter into the greased, 10-inch tube pan that you prepared earlier. Smooth batter with a spatula and top with 2 ½ cups of streusel. Scrape remaining batter into pan, on top of streusel, gently spreading it to the sides of the pan with your spatula. Use your fingers to squeeze remaining streusel together into large and small chunks, then top batter with all remaining streusel.
Bake at 350F for 60-70 minutes, until a tester comes out clean (mine took about 64 minutes).
Place cake on a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the around the outer and inner edges of the pan. Remove tube portion with cake attached. Run knife over the bottom, loosening the cake. Gently replace cake in the pan, which will support it as you turn it upside down. Place a clean dishtowel on top of the pan and a baking sheet on top of that. Carefully flip pan over, turning cake out onto the baking sheet. Reinvert onto wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
Serves up to 20.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cooking School: Perfect Brownies

Too cakey, too dry, too dense, too wet, too greasy, too many nuts, not enough nuts.
What is the perfect brownie? I sincerely thing that everyone has a different mindset when it comes to brownies. Some people like them to be like a moist, dense, chocolate cake, while others prefer them to be a sort of lightened fudge. There are some who won't eat them if they don't have nuts or frosting, while others turn up their noses at anything but a plain brownie. For something so simple, there are nearly as many different recipes as there are tastes. Unfortunately, I have found it very difficult to come up with a basic brownie recipe I actually like. I have tried so many brownies, I can no longer even identify the traits that I thought I liked, though I now know exactly what I dislike in a brownie (hence the list at the top of this post).
I am so picky about brownies that I will nearly always refuse them. But I was flipping through my new copy of Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies and saw her recipe for New Classic Brownies. Not only do I trust Alice's recipes, but I noted that these involved a "different and rather magical" technique. Alice said that this brownie recipe, coupled with the magical technique, "won hands down against the same recipe baked in a conventional matter. Not only was the crust crustier and the center creamier, but the flavor was livelier and more chocolatey as well!"
The magical method involves baking the brownies at a hight temperature for about 20 minutes, then dunking the pan in an ice bath, which arrests the cooking from the outside in, and very quickly at that. You can, alternatively, shove the pan into your freezer immediately upon removing them from the oven. If your freezer looks anything like mine, you're probably better off with the ice bath. This method means that you must use a metal baking pan, since a glass one could shatter when you take it from a hot oven and plunge it into freezing water.
This works. The brownies are the best brownies I have ever had, hands down. They are smooth and creamy in the center, without seeming raw or underbaked. They are crisp on the top and firm rather than gooey on the bottom, making them easy to handle. They are rich but neither greasy nor overly dense and fudge-like. I think that they are quite possibly the perfect brownies. These will be my basic brownie recipe from now on. You can add up to 2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter, if you like.

New Classic Brownies
(from Cookies and Brownies)
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F and line and 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil.
Melt the butter and the chocolate together, on top of a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring often until smooth. Stir in sugar, vanilla and salt. Add eggs one at a time, followed by flour. Stir until very smooth, about 1 minute. Add nuts, if using.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake at 400F for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a water bath. Fill a large roasting pan with water and ice about 1 inch deep.
When the brownies are done - and they will look a bit dry on top - take them immediately from the oven and place in the water bath. Add more ice to the water if necessary. Allow to cool completely in the bath before removing the pan and cutting the brownies.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Makes 16.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Apricot Ginger Oat Biscuits

I decided to name these biscuits, rather than cookies, because they are based on Anzac biscuits, the crunchy, oaty, eggless Aussie favorite. The biscuits are a favorite of mine, too, as I love anything that is full of oats. Niki has a good, standard recipe, full of oats and dessicated (shredded) coconut.
The biscuits I made lack the coconut that is typical of Anzac biscuits and have a bit of a twist, if the form of dried apricots and minced candied ginger. There isn't a huge amount of either of them, but enough to make a distinct showing in the cookie. The sweetness of the apricot really matches well with the candied ginger. I used Ginger Chips made by the Ginger People, which means that I didn't have to mince any of the ginger myself, but I think it's an advantage to have small pieces that are well distributed throughout the dough.
Buttery, crunchy and oaty, these biscuits have, in my opinion, a fabulous flavor profile, accentuated with sweet apricots, ginger and a hint of vanilla. They are easy to make and, because they are eggless, cholesterol free, if you keep track of that sort of thing. They are also easily made vegan, by using non-hydrogenated margerine in place of the butter.
Store in an airtight container, because they will keep for a while if they last more than a day or two.

Apricot Ginger Oat Biscuits
¼ cup butter, soft
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup (or golden syrup)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp water
1 cup ap flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
6 tbsp diced, dried apricots
2 tbsp minced candied ginger (or ginger chips)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add corn syrup (or golden syrup), vanilla and water and mix until fully incorporated.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in oats, apricots and ginger.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Press down slightly on each cookie to flatten.
Bake for 13-16 minutes at 350F, until cookies are golden all over, not just on the edges.
Cool on baking sheet, before removing to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 2 dozen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Steamed Buns with BBQ Filling

I love yum cha/dim sum (and have always heard the terms used fairly interchangeably). I love how the food arrives so fresh and piping hot at your tableside, where you can pick and cheese what you want to eat. My favorite is definately the steamed buns (bau) filled with barbeque pork . I have not had any sort of yum cha in some time and, in fact, have had great difficulty even finding a dim sum restaurant that I like, so it seemed as though my only altlernative was to try making these at home.
Before anyone tells me that these aren't traditional, something which is immediately apparent because my buns are gathered at the bottom and not the top, I already know. Frankly, I don't even think it is important that a dish be called "tratitional" at all; the taste is the most important part of any dish, whether traditional, original or inspired by something else. I used Maki's recipe, from i was really just very hungry, and she mentioned that these are the Japanese style of the traditional pork bun. They were absolutely fantastic. Not only was I surprised that I was able to steam them so successfully myself, they were some of the best buns I've had in a very long time. The dough was easy to make and a dream to handle. I used bleached all purpose flour to ensure that my buns were really white, but unbleached will give you the same textural results. They were light, soft and fluffy, with a nice bit of chew. You can see in the photo above that I left one unfilled to give you a better idea of the crumb/texture of the bun. This project also gave me a chance to use my bamboo steamer, which has been sitting unused in my cupboard for some time now, too.
For the filling, I made two types: one with pork and one using a vegetarian meat. Instead of going to all the trouble of making some sort of barbeque, I just used a favorite bottled sauce with a few additions and stirred it into my meat. Whether you do or do not like bottled sauce, you certainly can't beat it for convenience. I am looking forward to trying these buns with other fillings, like chicken and perhaps a sweet custard. The leftovers make a great lunch. You can either freeze them or store them in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for a day. Leave the plastic on and "steam" them for a 30-60 seconds in the microwave for a quick meal.

Steamed Buns with BBQ filling
(from i was really just very hungry)
1 packet (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110F)
3 cups ap flour (bleached, if possible)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tbsp shortening, melted
1/2 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl, combine yeast and 1/4 cup water. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Add 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, water, milk, shortening and baking powder and stir well. Add remaining flour gradually until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a large ziploc bag to rise (or a bowl, covered with plastic wrap) until doubled, 45-60 minutes.
Cut 12 3-inch squares of parchment paper.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten. Divide dough into 12 pieces (I made 15 because my steamer is on the small side). Keeping the unused pieces of dough covered with a dish towel, flatten a piece of dough into a circle with the center slightly thicker than the outside (approx 4-5 inches in diameter, but you'll get the hang of it quickly without measuring). Place about 2 tbsp filling in the center of the dough and close the dough around the filling (recipe below), pinching to seal. Place seam-side down on a square of parchment and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with all dough. Cover baking sheet with a clean dish towel and let rise for 15-20 minutes.
Steam buns for 18-20 minutes, in batches if necessary, until springy to the touch. Serve hot.
Makes 12 buns.

BBQ Filling
1 1/2 cups shredded pork (or chicken)
1/2 cup bbq sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Albondigas Soup

Whenever I have leftover meatloaf, meatballs or just unused ground meat, I stick it in the freezer. Often, these leftovers end up chopped up in a tomato-meat sauce for pasta or in a sandwich. This time, however, they made it into a homemade version of a popular Mexican soup.
Albondigas soup, also known simply as meatball soup, is practically a menu staple at most Mexican restaurants. The recipe is not as consistent as its presence, however. I've had thick soups and brothy soups, both spicy and mild and with all manner of ingredients and flavorings. In this version, I stuck with some familiar spices and kept it fairly mild, though on a cold day I would consider increasing the heat. Beef broth gave the soup a rich flavor. I definately saved a few minutes of preparation by using leftover, frozen meatballs, which I simply popped into the soup along with everything else. If you don't have any meatballs on man, you could really use any type of meat here. Chicken or shredded beef would work well.
With all the vegetables in the soup, this was a very satisfying and healthy meal. I used a lot of canned ingredients (mostly organic), which meant that I didn't have to worry about having tomatoes on hand or not. After all the chopping was done, which only took a few minutes, this was very low maintainance and a good choice for a weeknight.

Albondigas Soup
1 medium onion
¾-1 cup carrots, diced
½ cup (2 stalks) celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp diced green chilis
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp coriander
1 can fire roasted roma tomatoes, chopped
1 can corn, drained or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
2 medium potatoes, diced
6 cups beef broth (or 3 cups broth, 3 cups water)
12-16 small frozen meatballs (homemade is best, of course)
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot or a 5 or6-qt. dutch oven, sweat the onions, carrots and celery over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic, green chilis and spices, along with some salt and pepper, and stir well. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, along with salt and pepper, and cover the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender - about 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
Serves 6

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday Brunch: Aebleskiver

Aebleskiver are a Danish delicacy, a type of small, round pancake or waffle, with somewhat crisp exteriors and very moist interiors. They usually have small slices of apple inside them, but they can also be filled with jam or left plain. The are best eaten with powdered sugar, in my opinion, but syrup and jam are popular, and they can be rolled in butter and a cinnamon-sugar mixture to create small donught-like confections.
You need a special pan to make aebleskiver. They are generally cast iron and have small, semi-sheperical indentations to hold batter and give the cakes their unique, round shape. Aebleskiver are cooked on the stovetop and flipped over halfway through cooking. I use a fork to flip mine, but it is more traditional to use a large wooden skewer or knitting needle. These aren't the most versatile of pans - probably best for aebleskiver (obviously) and perhaps even donut holes - but they are rather fun-looking. And aebleskiver are so easy to make that you'll get your money's worth out of the pan.
I based my recipe on one that came with my pan, never having made aebleskiver myself before. I added cinnamon to the batter and filled them with raxpberry preserves. They were amazing. I'll be using my pan a lot more after today.

Raspberry Filled Aebleskiver
2 eggs, separated
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I used low fat)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup flour
raspberry preserves

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add vegetable oil and milk and mix well. Stir in salt, baking powder, cinnamon and flour.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into flour mixture.
Heat aebleskiver pan, brushed with a bit of vegetable oil, over high heat until hot. Fill each indentation about 3/4 full with batter. When the cake begins to puff up, add about 1 tsp raspberry preserves. When the batter bubbles slightly and the bottom is golden, turn over by inserting a fork (or skewer) into the edge and flipping quickly. Cook until the whole thing is golden brown. The aebleskiver will take about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second side.
Keep in a single layer in a slightly warm oven until serving, if not serving immediately as they cook. Serve with powdered/confectioners sugar.
Makes 28 aebleskiver.

Friday, January 13, 2006


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Lemonade is a drink that I associate with summer and the record-setting 88F/31C weather we saw here in Los Angeles last week was enough to spark my taste for it. Not to mention the fact that my lemon tree is practically falling over under the weight of a tremendous number of lemons and making lemonade is a good way to use up a few of them.
The problem with lemonade is the sugar. Even if your lemon juice is warm, it is a challenging task to dissolve the right amount of sugar into it. There will almost always be a grainy layer of sugar at the bottom of the pitcher, a paste that never gets incorporated. The trick is to make symple syrup to sweeten your lemonade. A simple syrup is water with sugar, usually an equal amount, dissolved in it. The syrup ensures tht no sugar will go unabsorbed in your drink, allowing you to achieve the perfect sweetness.
One other, though smaller, problem with lemonade is that putting ice into the pitcher dilutes it. This problem, since the sugar was a syrup, can be solved either by adding cold water to the juice or by simply refrigerating until cold, without adding extra ice to the pitcher.
Lemonade is very much a matter of taste. Sometimes I want something tart, while other times I want something quite sweet. Ths amount of sugar here is in between, though a bit on the sweet side. Don't feel bound to it. Use more or less, according to your tastes.

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
5 cups cold water

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, cooking until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
Pour lemon juice into a 2-quart or larger pitcher. Add cold water. Add about 1 cup sugar syrup, to taste, and stir to incorporate. Chill until cold and ready to serve.
Makes 6 servings.

For the sugar-rimmed glasses: Sprinkle 1-2 tbsp sugar on a small plate. Run a wedge of lemon around the rim of your glass and dip glass into sugar. Fill with lemonade.

Extra lemony - Add 1-2 tsp lemon zest to the sugar/water mixture as you make the syrup.
Hint of vanilla - Stir 1/2 tsp vanilla into the syrup when you remove it from the heat.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cooking School: Baked Custard

Custard is not really the most visually impressive of foods. It can be thick, thin, cooked on the stovetop or baked in the oven. A good custard will have a pale, yellowish or cream color and, if it is a baked custard, probably a slightly darker "skin" on top. Some people, like me, love it and some hate it. Creme brulee cleverly covers it up with some burnt sugar. The custard in this photo has a bit of skin, as you can see. But that is simply the way it is.
Baked custard is one of the two basic types of custard and it is simple to make. Beat eggs and sugar together, whisk in hot milk and bake in a water bath. The water bath insulates the custard, preventing it from reaching too high a heat and curdling. I have been as specific as possible in my recipe, below, but know that it is not a difficult process.
The hardest part is knowing when it is done. A custard like this should maintain a smooth, unblemished surface all through baking, so color is not a reliable indicator. You will know that it is done because it will jiggle all at once if you push the container. As though a single, huge drop has created it, the custard will ripple, but it will move symetrically. If different parts of the custard move independantly, it is not set yet. The custard may still look loose when it is done, but custards like this one should not look firm. You can always test it by inserting a sharp knife into the center. When the knife comes out clean, you can be sure it is done. Once you get the idea of what a proper jiggle looks like, you can use the same test for other baked custards, including cheesecake.
This custard is not too sweet with a nice, but subtle, vanilla flavor. I used low fat milk here, but whole will make a richer custard and skim will make a leaner one. You can steep a bean in the milk, or simply stir in 1 tsp of vanilla extract when you have removed the milk from the heat.
It is light, slightly eggy and has a delicate mouthfeel. In fact, when warm, it almost melts in your mouth. I personally think it's best warm, but it is excellent cold, too. You can store it in the refrigerator, covered, for a few days.

Baked Custard
3 cups milk
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla or 1/2 vanilla bean, split

Butter or lightly oil a 1-quart (4 cup) baking dish or ramekin. Place in a deep casserole or roasting pan. Fill pan with water until it comes about half way up the side of your ramekin. Remove ramekin.
Place casserole dish, with water still in it, in the oven.
Preheat fo 325F.
Put milk (whole or low fat) into a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. If you're using a vanilla bean, place it in the milk. The milk will be ready when steam begins to rise from it, but before it boils. While you wait, prepare the eggs.
Place eggs into a large bowl and beat to combine. Beat in sugar and whisk until thorougly combined.
When the milk is steaming, pour about 2 tablespoons into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add about two more tablespoons, still whisking, followed by a few more. Slowly stream in the rest of the milk, whisking continuously. If you are using vanilla extract, stir it in.
Strain custard into prepared ramekin with a mesh sieve, which will remove the vanilla bean and any lumps. Carefully place it into heated waterbath.
Bake at 325F for 40-45 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool in waterbath for 15-20 minutes.
Serves 6, warm or cold.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dark Molasses Cake with Streusel

For me, this is an unusual cake because it doesn't have any sugar in it. Instead, it relys on molasses for sweetness. Though molasses is derrived from boiling sugar cane when it is processed into sugar, it is not entirely sweet. The darker the molasses is - meaning that it comes from the second boiling of sugar cane as opposed to the first - the more likely it is to have a bitter quality to it. This can be rather off-putting if you don't anticipate it. The bitterness goes fairly well with a cup of coffee, but it has been offset here by a light topping of streusel, which does contain a bit of sugar.
Once baked, the cake stays fairly moist, while the streusel crisps up nicely. On the first day it is made, there will be a lovely, contrasting crunch from the slightly sugary topping. If you take care to have streusel and cake in each mouthful, the strong molasses flavor of the cake will be perfectly balanced. It will soften once the cake has been wrapped up, but that doesn't take anything away from the flavor.
If you prefer to use light molasses, your cake will lack the slight bitterness that the darker molasses gave mine. To avoid this entirely, or if you cannot get molasses at all, you can substitute golden syrup or treacle for the molasses. The lack of refined sugar in this might be enough to qualify it as a "lo-carb" cake. I'm not completely sure, but perhaps Elise might know, since she is looking into lower-carb options this month.
Overall, I really liked this cake. I worried that it would be too dark or too strong, but it was neither. It was moist, interesting and, perhaps best of all, topped with streusel. It was easy to put together and a little bit different from the usual fare. Perfect for a cold winter morning and outstanding with a cup of hot coffee.

Dark Molasses Cake with Streusel
1 ¾ cup ap flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
1 egg
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ cup milk
½ cup dark molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract

Streusel Topping
(Feel free to double if you want extra)
1 tbsp butter, cold
1 tbsp ap flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp oats (1-minute or coarsely chopped rolled oats)
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 8x8 square baking pan with butter or cooking spray.
In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients and rub butter in with your fingers, until the mixture is crumbly and evenly blended. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat egg, then add melted butter, milk, molasses, and vanilla. Whisk thorougly and pour into flour mixture. Stir until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl, and pour into prepared pan.
Top evenly with streusel mixture.
Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool on a wire rack.
Serves 9-12, depending on how big you like your pieces.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes

I love these cupcakes. I loved mixing them, filling them and making the meringues. Most of all, I loved eating them.
Did I mention that they are simple to put together and very impressive looking? I was inspired by a recipe from Food&Drink, the official magazine of the liquor licensing board of Ontario, Canada. I didn't quite use their recipe, but the premise is the same. The magazine is a beautiful publication that I have used before with great success. Incidentally, they recommend a Riesling or a Chardonnay as an accompaniment for these cupcakes.
The cake is moist and tender with a light lemon flavor from zest that is stirred into the batter. It is possible that lemon juice would have added to the intensity, but I don't think that it would have been necessary since the cupcakes were filled with lemon curd. In fact, as you eat the cake, you will come across a bright burst of tart-sweet lemon in the center; more lemon flavor isn't even necessary. The meringue makes a nice change from more traditional buttery frostings, too. It is light enough not to take away from the flavor of the cake, but it adds a bit of extra sweetness and a delightful look. And it also gave me an excuse to use my kitchen torch to brown the peaks.
I used a cooked meringue for these, so they would stay stable at room temperature for several hours, though they can be finished and refrigerated for 24 hours. If you don't have a small kitchen torch, just place the cupcakes on a baking sheet, top with meringue and put them under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned.

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes
1 cup cake flour
1 cup ap flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, very soft
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 375F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
Sift together cake flour, ap flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg thoroughly, followed by vanilla. Alternate milk and flour in three additions, ending with flour.
Evenly distribute in prepared pans.
Bake at 375F for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 18 cupcakes.

Once the cupcakes are cool, fill a metal-tipped pastry bag with lemon curd (recipe follows, or you may use store-bought) and pipe into cupcakes. Poke the tip of the pasty bag 1/2-1 inch into the top of each cupcake and squeeze about 2 tsp lemon curd into it. You might not use all the curd.

3 egg whites
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Set a glass or metal bowl over a sauce pan with an inch or two of boiling water in it (i.e. use a double boiler) and beat egg whites in it until foamy. Add in cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not yet at soft peaks. Stream in sugar until meringue reaches fairly stiff peaks. Spread on cupcakes with a small knife or offset spatula.
Brown with a blowtorch or place on a baking sheet under the broiler until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Lighter Lemon Curd
(adapted from Chocolate and the Art of Low Fat Desserts)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1-2 tsp lemon zest
5 tbsp sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, dissolve sugar into lemon juice. Add zest.
Lightly beat egg in a small/medium bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly pour lemon/sugar syrup into the egg. Beat for 2 minutes (only 1 if you're using a mixer), then transfer back into the saucepan.
Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until it just starts to bubble at the edges. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Transfer to a small container and store in the fridge.
Makes 2/3 cup.

On an un-cupcake related note, bakingsheet is a finalist in the Best Cooking/Recipe Blog category of the Best of Blog Awards. I'm honored to have been nominated, and congrats to the rest of the nominees. I'll announce when the polls are open for voting!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Calendar and a Few News Items

I would like to announce the release of the official bakingsheet 2006 wall calendar at the official bakingsheet shop. The calendar is packed with delicious bakingsheet images. I originally created it so I could share a few of my favorite photos from the last year with family and friends and, I'll admit, I liked a few of them so much that I wanted them on my own wall. But if you're interested in adding this to your collection, or perhaps you've just procrastinated in buying another calendar to the point where you have no other options, check it out. If you place an order on or before January 9th, you can get $4 off each calendar by entering the code BIG2 at checkout.
Everything else in the shop is a test item, so I'd love to hear feedback as to whether I need to make any changes.

And speaking of things being in print, I was excited to see that (back in December, actually) bakingsheet received its first mention in a non-digital medium, the Ackron Beacon. I live in California, I was only able to see the online version of the article, but the very thought that it was in print is exciting. To preserve the moment, I captured the image with a screenshot, seen above.
But enough with the self-promotion.

Last week, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Jessica of Su Good Sweets. We had a fabulous lunch at Newsroom, shared some of my homemade marshmallows - mint chocolate flavor - with our waitress and indulged in a few of Jessica's homemade macaroons.

They were really excellent, with an outstanding almond flavor, chocolate filling and just the right amount of chew. I'm lucky that she made me so many, since I ate almost a half dozen before I got home! Though Jessica will make the macaroons to order at her shop, they're only available in Manhattan at the moment. I'll have to wait until my next trip back east to try a few more, but I definitely encourage anyone in the NY area to try them.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Banana Scones

Normally, I wouldn't consider bananas to be the kind of fruit that you chop up and mix into baked goods. The soft, velvety texture of bananas seems to lend itself to mashing. But I broke tradition and chopped them up before I added them to these scones. I felt that the texture of the scone would be compromised if I added all that excess moisture. Not that there is anything wrong with a muffin-like scone, but I wanted the hint of flakiness that rubbed in butter gives these to be noticeable.
Butter is probably the most dominant flavor in these scones, accentuated by bites of banana and a kiss of vanilla. The ginger adds a very subtle flavor, but doesn't draw much attention to itself, which is why I think it works so well here. If you want to play it up a bit, stir in some diced candied ginger along with the bananas.
These scones develop a nicely crisp outside with a moist interior. The banana bits seem to caramelise a bit and lend a lovely flavor to the whole scone. In fact, the softness of the banana almost eliminates the need for anything like honey or cream to accompany these. But if you want to use a bit of extra butter, I won't tell.

Banana Scones
1 cup ap flour
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp butter, cold
4-5 tbsp milk (or light cream)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup banana, diced (approx. half a medium banana)

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and ginger. Cut butter into a few chunks and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips.
Mix milk and vanilla in a small glass. Pour about 4 tablespoons into the flour mixture and stir until the mixture starts to come together. Add the banana chunks and continue to stir, adding more milk if necessary, until dough comes together.
Pat dough into a disk about 1 inch thick. Cut into four sections with a knife and place each on baking sheet.
Bake at 400F for 17-20 minutes, until light gold.
Cool on wire rack or eat warm. These scones are best the day they are made.
Makes 4 scones.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cooking School: Bakery Style Muffins

There are a few tricks to baking a bakery style muffin. By "bakery style muffin" I mean a muffin that has a slight crispness to its muffin top, is moist and fluffy inside and is exactly halfway between being coarse and being cake-like. Most importantly, a bakery style muffin has a big, domed top taking up about 50% of the muffin. Kelli, from Lovescool, and I have been pondering the all important question of how to achieve this.
The main thing in achieving a stable, domed rise is to have a thick batter leavened with baking powder. Yogurt is what makes the batter so thick in this recipe. Baking powder will give the muffin plenty of verticle lift, while a muffin leavened only with baking soda would spread a bit, tending to have a flatter top. Overfilling the muffin tins, by which I actually mean coming up to the top of the tin or slightly higher with the batter, will let these muffins have a nice crisp ledge, like a bakery muffin. You can see that I didn't overfill mine quite enough; the ledge is quite small in the photo.
Moisture comes from butter, sugar and eggs. The editors of The Best Recipe, which this recipe is taken from, tested the exact amounts of butter and sugar to perfect (in their opinion) this muffin. I increased the sugar from "One cup minus one tablespoon" to "one cup" because it's simpler. Having only one cup of sugar in this recipe prevents the muffins from being too sweet and cakelike or taking focus away from the flavors in the muffin. The creaming method ensures a tight and fluffy interior crumb in these.
The muffins turned out exactly as promised: domed, beautiful and very bakery-like. They tasted great, with a firmer edge and moist interior. You can add 1 1/2 cups of fruit (fresh or frozen) to the batter, much as Elise has done with her Blueberry Muffins, based on the same recipe. I added some cinnamon and 1 cup of chocolate and cinnamon chips instead. Served warm and with a bit of butter, they were very delicious, though I migh go for a cherry/chocolate combination next time....

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Bakery-Style Muffins
(Adapted from The Best Recipe)
3 cups ap flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
10 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain low fat yogurt
3/4 cup (generous) chocolate chips
1/4 cup cinnamon chips

Preheat oven to 375F and grease a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.
Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl, adding eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla.
Alternate yogurt and flour into butter mixture, ending with the flour and working in 2 or three additions. Stir in chocolate and cinnamon chips.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling them to the top or slightly higher and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out clean (Note: with fruit instead of chocolate chips, you may have to increase baking time by a few minutes).
Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 12 large muffins

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Mini Chicken Sausage Fritattas

Miniature versions of big things are often much cuter than their cousins and these little fritattas are no exception. Though the recipe from EatingWell calls them mini quiches, I think that fritatta is a little more accurate, since there is no crust. Not to mention that the term "fritatta" is perhaps a touch more current than "quiche", which seems somewhat reminiscent of the '70s to me. Whatever you choose to call them, these little bites are perfect for snacking or served as an appetiser at a party.
I used a chipotle chicken sausage from Trader Joes and really liked the extra spice, so look for a spiced sausage to start with. Chipotleadded a nice bit of heat. Feel free to use beef or pork, if you prefer, though chicken is my favorite. There is a good ratio of filling to egg in these and I don't think you can beat them for a party-sized snack. They are best warm, but are also excellent at room temperature, so once you put out a tray of them, you don't need to rush back to the kitchen to heat them up repeatedly.
The fritattas are quite easy to make. Simply remove from sausage from its casing and brown in a skillet, mix in a few extras and add to a "batter" of eggs and milk. Keep your egg "batter" in a measuring cup with a spout, so it is easy to pour into the greased muffin tins. I found that I needed to make sure that my pan was very well greased between each use to prevent the fritattas from sticking. They can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to three days, but remember to keep a sharp eye on them when reheating; too long in the microwave can turn eggs rubbery.

Mini Chicken Sausage Fritattas
8 ounces spicy chicken sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325F.
Thoroughly grease a mini muffin tin.
In a skillet with a bit of oil, cook sausage over medium heat, breaking it up slightly and cooking until browned. Place into a medium bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in green onions and cheddar cheese.
In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk until smooth. Transfer to large measuting cup with spout.
Pour egg mixture into each mini muffin cup, filling about 3/4 full. Place 1 - 1 1/2 tsp sausage mixture into each cup.
Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes, until set.
Remove to a wire rack to cool before storing.
Makes 3 dozen mini fritattas.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Green Onion and Yogurt Bread

I definately like versatile bread recipes and, for me, they usually tend to be slightly sweet. Breads that have a hint of sweetness often compliment both savory dishes and sweet ones, as well as being delicious on their own. A cheese bread just doesn't really work with blueberry preserves on it.
On the other hand, breads that tend toward the savory can be complex and interesting. They can really work well with savory dishes, even when they're not the ideal choice for french toast.
This bread is of the slighlty savory variety. It is a variation on the popular sour cream and onion flavor, using yogurt and green onions. The finished bread has a delicious, mild onion flavor blended with a hint of tang from the yogurt. The loaf has a very soft, moist interior with a hint of crispness in the crust. The onions in my loaf were very evenly distributed, so I think I managed to find just the right amount of them. I can't say whether this would make a good sandwich, since that depends on your personal preferences toward the softness of your bread, but it goes great with soups and would probably make an outstanding grilled cheese sandwich.
Store a cut loaf cut-side down on your countertop to prevent the crust from loosing its crispness.

Green Onion Yogurt Bread
1 ¼ cups water, warm and divided (110F)
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
½ cup plain yogurt (any variety)
2 1/2 tsp salt
3-3 ½ cups ap flour
½ cup chopped green onions (scallions)

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup water with yeast and sugar. Stir and let stand for 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Add remaining water, yogurt, salt and 2 cups of flour. Stir until smooth. Add onions, followed by remaing flour 1-2 tbsp at a time, mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl to rise for about 1 ½ hours, covered with plastic wrap, until doubled.
Gently turn dough out onto a floured surface. Flatten slightly, then shape into an oblong loaf, 11-12 inches long. Place on a floured baking sheet, cover with a clean dish towel and let rise for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F.
Slash loaf with 3 or 4 diagonal cuts.
Bake at 400F for 35 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

After seeing Joe's banana cake, topped with a gorgeous looking peanut butter frosting, I knew that I had to find something to put it on. And very few combinations work as well as peanut butter and chocolate.
I went with a batch of moist chocolate cupcakes. They are quite easy to put together and are really delicious. The cake is cark, moist and tender, with a great chocolate flavor. Though I usually like to use buttermilk in chocolate cakes, this recipe uses plain milk. The lowfat variety is fine, but make sure to warm it up slightly, as that will help the flavor of the cocoa really come out.
Peanut butter wasn't overwhelming in the frosting, making the inside of your mouth sticky. Instead, it was plesantly sweet and smooth, a great topper for the cupcakes. I liked a thin coating of frosting for these, not only because I would have had to double the frosting recipe for a thicker layer, but because it would have been too sweet otherwise. I added 1/4 cup more confectioners sugar to the original recipe to make it a bit stiffer.

Chocolate Cupcakes
1 ½ cups ap flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, very soft
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk, warm

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.
Add flour and milk, alternating in 3 additions, ending with flour.
Evenly distribute into prepared muffin tins.
Bake at 350F for 15-17 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Makes 24.

Peanut Butter Frosting
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioners sugar
chocolate buttons or kisses

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt peanut butter and butter and dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and whisk in milk. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside to cool completely.
Add confectioners sugar and beat on medium/high speed with an electric mixer, until smooth and fluffy. Spread on cooked cupcakes and top each with a chocolate button.
Will thinly frost 24 cupcakes (approx. 1 1/2 cups).

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sunday Brunch: Gingerbread Pancakes

Happy New Year, everyone.
After a night of staying up late in celebration, something easy but just a little special is in order for breakfast. It should be simple enough to whip up while you’re still groggy, but satisfying and delicious. Maybe a little unusual.
These pancakes are easy and spiced up just enough to be perfect for a winter morning. The gingerbread spice combination here seems very warming to me.
I know that sometimes I am turned off by recipe that seem to have a huge ingredient list, as so many other people are. After years of avoiding such recipes, I finally learned to read them before dismissing them out of hand. Some recipes just seem unnecessarily complicated, but a lot of them are simply lists of spices. And I love spices.
Pancakes are inherently simple things and adding spices doesn't really have to make them any more complicated. Just toss them in with the dry ingredients and you’ll have a delicious breakfast unique enough to be served on a special occasion and fast enough for a weekday, if you’re so inclined.

Gingerbread Pancakes
1 cup ap flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
pinch nutmeg
pinch black pepper
1 1/8 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tbsp melted butter (or vegetable oil)
2 tbsp dark molasses

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and black pepper in a medium bowl.
In another medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, melted butter and molasses. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Heat a nonstick or lightly greased pan over medium high heat, until a drop of water sizzles on it. Drop dollops of batter to make 3-inch pancakes. Turn when the edges of the pancakes begin to look dry and the bottom is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Cook second side until it is golden, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Serves 2-3 people with lots of maple syrup.