Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm smitten!

No one likes a copy cat. And I'm not...really. But I have fallen in love with a blog I've been reading lately. Smitten Kitchen. I finally sat down and went through her recipe index adding all kinds of things to my "must make" folder. I have just made two of her recipes and I thought I'd share them with you. Both involve cherries. I have a fondness for cherries that started in high school. I went to Germany with my grandparents. We were in a small, picturesque town visiting a friend of my grandmother. One of the daughters had a boyfriend who worked on a cherry farm. He brought over a gigantic bowl of the sweet fruit for all of us. It was the first time I remember ever really enjoying cherries. We just sat, enjoyed the beautiful scenery and ate cherries! When I saw that Smitten Kitchen had several cherry recipes, I jumped in my car, went to the market and bought a big bag of them. Here's the goodness that followed...

Saturday, I made Coconut Pinkcherry Yogurt. Sooooooooooo yummy. Soooooooooooooo easy. What I liked about this recipe is that there is no cooking/tempering. Nothing but adding the ingredients in a bowl and letting them chill in the fridge until it's time to churn! We decided that this frozen yogurt is similar in Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia - minus the chocolate and just a tad bit more tart. I think I'll play around with this recipe adding a little more sugar and a little more almond extract and some chocolate! The only thing on the down side was that my freezer froze the yogurt so hard that we had to chip off our servings. Other than that, delish!

Coconut Pinkcherry Yogurt
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop and Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 1 quart

3 cups Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup cherries, pits removed and roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Mix together the yogurt, sugar, almond extract, cherries and coconut milk. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Today I made these fantastic Cherry Brown Butter Bars with the rest of the cherries I had. These bars baked up pretty fast. I haven't made many dishes with brown butter. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I have until today. The thought is that browning butter brings out a nutty flavor to any dish you're making. You have to be careful, though. The butter goes from brown to burned in a flash so watch carefully! These bars are tender and the brown butter really adds a depth of flavor to these little babies. All I can say is, "Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!"

Cherry Brown Butter Bars
Adapted from Bon Appetit and Smitten Kitchen

The recipe I drew inspiration from is a 9-inch fluted tart with raspberries that if early commenters are any indication, is nothing short of delightful. What I’ve hacked it into is something a little more casual and finger-food friendly, or in our case, easier to pack up and share with friends, you know, if we’re feeling generous. As for the fruit you use, no need to limit yourself to either cherries or raspberries — use whatever looks best by you right now, or whatever you have on hand. I bet you could even carry this into fall with apple or pear slivers.

Special equipment: Although not a prerequisite to make these, if you’re the type of person who has cherry pitter or even a removable-bottom brownie pan, this recipe will be even more of a cinch.

Makes 16 2-inch square bars (pictured), or 32 2×1-inch bars, if you, like me, prefer baked goods bite-sized

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries, which will yield 12 ounces of pitted cherries, which yielded some leftovers, perfect for snacking (alternately, you can use 12 ounces of the berry of your choice)

Make crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl, or if you’re Deb, in the bottom of the small saucepan you used to melt the butter. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

Make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the berries of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (though, of course, this took less time in my hyperactive oven so please watch your baking times carefully). Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. The cherries, if they fall over your slicing lines, will want to give you trouble but if you saw a sharp knife into them slowly before pressing down, they’ll cut neatly and with minimum carnage.

Do ahead: Can be made at least a day ahead, and stored at room temperature. Any longer, keep them cool in the fridge.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Banana Muffins

Come on. Admit it. You buy bunches of bananas at the store so that you can try out different banana bread recipes. I'm sure that you have something that looks like this in your kitchen...

I saw Giada on TV yesterday. She was making some super yummy looking banana muffins. Because I need constant confirmation that what I'm about to make has been tested by the masses and given good reviews (see? I didn't do that with the chocolate chip pretzel bars and look what happened) I looked them up. To date, these babies have 5 stars and 308 reviews! I think I'm safe! They are in the oven right now...

Oh dear. I just inhaled one. These muffins are super moist. Sweet but not too sweet. This might just be the best banana recipe I've tried. Okay...go to the store today and buy some bananas and let them sit for a few days...make these muffins. You'll be glad you did!

Giada topped her muffins with frosting. I am not because a. I don't have all of the makings for frosting and b. I am not a huge frosting lover. Just give me the cake. Darn it. Here's the recipe from the Food Network website:

Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream Frosting
Courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis
(her recipe yields 18 but I got 23)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly. The muffins may be eaten warm or cooled completely and frosted.

To frost the cupcakes: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone cheese and then beat in the honey. Spread the frosting over the muffins. Sprinkle with the walnuts.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Weekend Verdict...

First off, we had a great time at the lake! Little Jack attempted wake boarding...this is HUGE!!! He rarely likes to try new things...especially when "danger" might be involved...but he was feeling studly this weekend! He didn't get up but he gave it a good shot!

Okay. Now on to the food. The pound cake was DELICIOUS!!! I can't tell you...every time someone helped themselves to a slice we all heard "Oooooohhhhhh" and "Mmmmmmmmm." If you don't have a bundt pan, go out and get one PRONTO and bake this cake! I made it Thursday and the last slice was still moist Friday night. That little cake didn't even last a full day!

The chocolate chip pretzel bars...weeeeeeeellllllllllllll. Hmmmm. Don't make them. They tasted just like a chocolate chip cookie but in bar form with pretzels randomly thrown in. There were still several left when we loaded up to come home this morning. :(

Cream Cheese Pound Cake: YES!!!
Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars: NO!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lake Treats

This weekend is Pappy's birthday and we're all heading to the lake for some R and R...and tubing and fishing and golfing and boating and EATING!!! I try to only bake when I have an occasion to (but frankly, I can find ANY occasion ANYTIME to bake) and Pappy's 60th is a big one! Since we are going to the lake, though, I needed to find some easy treats that would make the drive and would be easy to devour. I found a new recipe in the newest Food and Wine...Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars. Sounded yummy enough! There's nothing like sweet and salty - is there anything better?

Cream 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 1 c light brown sugar and 1/2 c sugar.

Beat in 2 eggs and 2 tsp pure vanilla. Add 2 c all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt.

Stir in one 12 oz bag of bittersweet chocolate chips (I found these at the store yesterday and they are WONDERFUL)

and 1 1/2 c pretzels, coarsely chopped.

Sprinkle with 2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles (I'm thinking this is totally optional)

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes in a well greased 9 x 13 metal pan.

Not For the Faint of Heart

I feel a little like The Pioneer Woman right now...if you're on a diet, don't even think of making this. For the rest of us, just use your greatest denial skills as you quickly read over the ingredients for this pound cake. Yes, it has 3 sticks of butter and 3 cups of sugar. But it's pound cake. Pure, slightly sweet, hopefully with a crunchy top. When was the last time you had a slice? I have been wanting to make this recipe for quite some time now. I first saw the book, Staff Meals from Chanterelle a while back at the book store. It's one that I had been eyeing. Then, I saw on Smitten Kitchen a recipe from the book...Cream Cheese Pound Cake. So...I broke down, splurged and bought the book. I look for any excuse to bake and going to the lake for Pappy's birthday seemed like the perfect occasion to try out this little ditty. So here we go...

Cream 3 sticks unsalted butter and 1 8oz package of Philadelphia cream cheese until smooth. (Don't skimp on store brand cream cheese. Chanterelle likes Philadelphia brand because it contains less water than other brands.)

Add 3 c sugar and beat on high until light and airy, about 5 minutes.

Add 6 eggs, beating well after each addition. Add 2 tsp pure vanilla.

Then add 3 c all purpose flour and 1 tsp salt and beat just until flour is incorporated.

Pour in pan and bake at 325 for about 1 1/4 hours, until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool cake on rack for 20 minutes, then remove cake from pan and cool completely.

I also made the strawberry coulis that Smitten Kitchen offered on her website.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cookie Love

Little Jack and I are going to a friend's house tomorrow. I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies to take with us. This recipe has been in my family for years and years. My mama said she found it on the flour sack...probably a Gold Medal bag. They were called "Mary's Chocolate Chip Cookies." Let me tell you about these cookies. They are the absolute best I have ever tasted. They are chewy, not soft or crispy. I hate crispy cookies. They are loaded with chocolate. The are, in fact, pure heaven. They are easy and fast to whip up. I tend to bake a couple dozen and freeze the rest. All you have to do is make balls of the dough, freeze on a cookie sheet and then keep in a freezer bag. Just take them out and bake when you need some cookie love...and you know you do! Okay! Let's get going!

In a mixing bowl, cream 3 sticks butter, 1 1/4 c sugar, 1 1/4 c packed brown sugar.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract.

In another bowl, combine 4 c all purpose flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp salt.

Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, about a cup at a time.

Now it's time to think about chocolate chips. What kind do you use? I like to use a combo of milk, semi sweet and gives interest to every bite. Did you know that every bite could have interest? It can!!!

Add about 2 c of your chocolate chips of choice AND 3/4 c oatmeal.

I love to use an ice cream scoop to put the dough on the cookie sheet. Little Jack likes the scoop, too, because he knows that each cookie is the same size...he just has to figure out which cookie has the most chocolate!

Bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven.

Look at these babies! They are beautiful!!!! They are yummy!!!! They are cookie love!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Way of the Waffle...

We have a waffle obsession going on in my house these days. When Little Jack gets hungry, it's waffles that he craves. He's gotten really good at making breakfast for himself - and I am digging that! I don't know where I found this recipe but it is a sure fire winner. I make a big batch and stick them in the freezer. We just pull them out as needed, toast them and devour them. They are great fresh but I must say, we prefer them toasted because their texture is even lighter and crisper.

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 c all purpose flour, 1/2 c cornstarch, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda

In a smaller bowl, combine 1 1/2 c buttermilk, 1/2 c milk, 2 egg yolks, 12 tbsp vegetable oil (that's right...12!)

With a whisk attachment, beat 2 egg whites until you have soft peaks. Sprinkle whites with 2 tbsp sugar and continue beating until whites are firm and glossy. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla.

Combine wet and dry ingredients and fold in egg whites.

Ladle batter onto waffle maker and cook according to your makers directions.

This recipe will yield approximately 6-7 batches of waffles.