Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wordless(ish) Wednesday: Dorie's bittersweet brownies (BFMHTY)

I'm not a coffee person, but I followed Dorie's suggestion for adding instant espresso powder to her bittersweet brownies: OMW, these were amazing!!! My 9" square pan was in use (baking the caramel chocolate pecan bars you see under the ice cream), so I used an 8" round...kind of fun to have little wedges of brownies!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate truffle oreo dreamin' (TWD: BwJ)

Our second recipe for the Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia group was chocolate truffle tartlets. I'd initially intended to make these as a Valentine's treat because, come on, don't they sound perfect and romantic and decadent? But with all of the birthday goodnesses still hanging around, plus Valentine's cookies baked with the kids, I just couldn't introduce another sweet into our house.

Until the weekend, of course! :) I made the tart dough on Saturday night. Having read the helpful comments left in the P&Qs, I knew the tart dough tended to be a bit dry, so even though I cut the recipe in half, I used the full egg yolk and tablespoon of water. The dough was still pretty dry, but eventually it came together. Then it went into the fridge for an overnight rest.

Sunday afternoon, I divided the dough in three and rolled it out for my mini-tart pans. I decided to skip baking the tarts without their bottoms on a bigger sheet pan; I've baked enough tarts in my mini-pans (thanks, NM!) to know that I can get them in and out of the oven okay. The dough rolled out fine and was easy to work with. I chilled the crusts and then baked them for 15 minutes.

I melted the chocolate (60%) and unsalted butter and let the mixture cool while phone calls and birthday party planning distracted me (can't believe my little guy is going to be five this weekend!!!). Then I made the rest of the topping: whipped egg yolks and sugar, combined gently with the chocolate/butter mixture. Finally I added in chopped milk chocolate, white chocolate chips, and Oreos (I didn't have biscotti in the house, but had already purchased Oreos to make mint Oreo ice cream). I divided the filling between my three tart pans; they didn't look set at 10 minutes, and then I got distracted and didn't take them out until almost 15.

The tarts definitely should've come out a few minutes earlier; they were a little dry. Still, this is a winning recipe: we loved the melty chocolately bits and the crunchy bites of cookie. Especially yummy with mint Oreo ice cream! (Good the next day after being in the fridge, too.)

There are four hosts this week, so check their blogs for the recipe: Spike, Jaime, Jessica, and Steph. Check here for links to everyone else's tarts!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Our favorite chicken pot pie

A bajillion years ago when the Modern Bakers were in the savory tarts section, I was responsible for blogging the chicken pot pie. Although we enjoyed the chicken and veggies, I was unhappy with the biscuit topping and the consistency of the pie overall. I mentioned in my post that the recipe wouldn't replace our favorite pot pie. A couple of people asked for my stand-by recipe, but it took me until now to get around to photographing and posting it!

I started with a recipe I pulled from Cooking Light a couple of years ago, although I don't use many of CL's short-cuts (like bisquick). I also add more veggies; we like a lot of variety, and besides, you never know which veggies the kids will be interested in on any given night. I also use tidbits from my dad's pot pie recipe (including his recipe for homemade bisquick).

Pot pie is often pretty bland, but this one is really flavorful, and we really enjoy the light biscuity topping. There's quite a bit of prep work, with all of the veggie-chopping; it usually takes me just over an hour from taking stuff out of the fridge 'til I get dinner on the table. But it makes a nice big pan, enough for a Sunday dinner for the four of us, and a couple of lunches for me and hubby for the work week ahead. And there are no complaints at the dinner table when it's served!

Our favorite chicken pot pie
adapted from Cooking Light and my dad
makes 6 servings
1 tbsp butter
2 leeks, washed thoroughly with tough ends removed, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 shallot, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
3/4 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 large potato, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 celery stalk, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
4 mushrooms, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 c dry white wine
1 tsp Dijon mustard
14 oz chicken broth
2 cups chopped roasted chicken
1 1/2 c frozen veggies (I use half frozen corn, half frozen peas)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp water
2/3 c half-and-half

for the topping
1 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp, 1 tsp powdered milk
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425ยบ. Coat a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add leeks, shallot, and thyme, and saute for 2 minutes.
3. Add potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, and mushrooms, and saute for 2 minutes.
4. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute.
5. Stir in mustard and broth; bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Stir in chicken, frozen veggies, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
7. Whisk the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Add the slurry and the half-and-half to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
8. Dump into baking dish.
9. For the topping, whisk together the dry ingredients; then add the milk and egg. Spoon the batter over the chicken and veggies. It's okay if it doesn't cover it all evenly; it adds to the rustic look of the dish.
10. Bake for 20 minutes, until topping is golden and filling is bubbly. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Marshmallows, take 2

When I finally made homemade marshmallows a couple of months ago, I was excited to discover how easy and how delicious they were.

But I have to admit that it felt a little like cheating to use the easier, non-egg white version. So making homemade marshmallows (the egg white version) has continued to be on my to-do list.

I've been using Jeni's ice cream book a ton lately, enjoying the process of making ice cream without tempering eggs, but I was in the mood for something different. Hubby suggested the mint Oreo ice cream from Tracey's site that we tried this summer, and how could I say no to that?! The ice cream called for four egg yolks, and conveniently David Lebovitz' marshmallows call for four egg whites, so it really seemed meant to be.

In the non-egg white marshmallow recipe, you dissolve the gelatin, then add the hot sugar syrup, and whip the whole thing until it turns into billowy marshmallows.

The egg white version is slightly more complicated: dissolve the gelatin, boil the sugar syrup, beat the egg whites, then add the syrup, and finally add the gelatin. It really doesn't seem much more complicated on paper, but it felt that way, and the marshmallows seemed to take longer to reach their thick, billowy stage.

As with the other recipe, I let the marshmallows sit out overnight, and then cut them up (with oil-coated scissors) and tossed them in powdered sugar this morning. As for the result? We found these lighter and less chewy than the store-bought kind, which I know some people prefer. Even with leaving them out overnight, they seemed to weep a bit, which makes me wonder if maybe I didn't beat the eggs long enough? The flavor of the two types was almost identical.

Everyone in my house (including me) preferred the texture of the non-egg white marshmallows, which suits me just fine, since they were easier and quicker to make...and I don't have to wait until I have abandoned egg whites to make them! But I'm glad I can cross this version off my list, and even with the odd texture, they're still going like hotcakes here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wordless(ish) Wednesday: Simple pleasures

Hearing, "Fresh eggs from my chickens!"
from the little guy's preschool teacher at pick-up this afternoon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A day of hearts

I've always loved Valentine's Day...what could be bad about a day dedicated to chocolate, flowers, hearts, pink, and love?! (And the fact that it always meant yummy treats for my birthday never hurt, either.)

 Breakfast: Heart-shaped cinnamon rolls (sweet dough from ABED & pink frosting)

 Lunch: (For my little Valentines) heart quesadillas & strawberries

 Dessert: Iced heart-shaped cookies (from KAF)

and a romantic Valentine Death Star for my main Valentine.

Happy Valentine's Day! :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012


 Cupcakes: golden sour cream cake from Bake!
Pink frosting: strawberry buttercream from Bake!
Chocolate frosting: chocolate buttercream from CI

 Sweetest birthday present: poem written by my little guy

 Funniest birthday present: OCD cutting board from hubby
(says on the back "go ahead and wash 20 times; we won't tell") :)

Best birthday present: baking cupcakes with my girl

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Instant lemon curd

Making lemon curd wasn't on my radar, but I was totally intrigued when I saw this post on KAF for instant lemon curd, made in five minutes in the microwave. I just had to try it.

FYI, it worked! And it was delicious!

Instant lemon curd
from King Arthur Flour (who got the recipe from Modern Baking)

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
zest of one lemon

1. Whisk the egg and sugar in a large microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the butter and then the lemon juice and zest.
2. Place the bowl on a plate and put it in the microwave. Cook in one minute increments, stirring with a heat-proof spatula, until the curd mounds slightly and coats the back of your spatula. Mine seemed done at 3 minutes; I let it go an extra minute, but I would just do the 3 next time.

That's it! KAF has wonderful step-by-step photos, so you can see what the curd is supposed to look like at each stage. I couldn't believe how easy this was, or how yummy. I'm hoping to make some lemon curd ice cream, although actually, I've mostly just been eating it from the jar a spoonful at a time. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Twitter chef avatar fun: Delia's chicken pot pie

Our February chef for our Twitter avatar fun is Delia Smith, chosen by Nancy. Delia is a new chef for me, but luckily her website is absolutely overflowing with delicious recipes to try. (Kayte made her French onion soup.) Looking for a good dinner idea, I found her recipe for chicken and leek pot pie. Chicken pot pie is always a hit around here, and this one was covered with puff pastry; I just happened to have just enough of NM's puff pastry left in my freezer to cover my pies.

The recipe is great for a small household, baking in a small round casserole and serving two. Feeding a family of four, but not needing leftovers for the next day, I made one and a half times the recipe. And actually, it makes quite a bit: it fed us all, plus healthy seconds for hubby, and he still had a sizable portion leftover for lunch today.

I had a bit of a challenge with the pot pie topping: you're supposed to cut out a little strip of pastry and stick it to the side of the casserole, and then press a round bit of pastry on top. I just couldn't make it work and was in a rush, so I just threw the round on the top of the casseroles. As a result, the puff pastry sank onto the topping and was a little soggy; still tasty though! I also made a change in the decoration: Delia has you decorate the top of the pie with a cut out of a leaf. To get buy-in from my family, I used our Star Wars cookie cutters and made Millennium Falcon and Tie-Fighter cut-outs instead. :-)

As for the verdict? This pot pie filling was awesome, definitely a rival to our favorite recipe. It was kind of time-consuming, but most (good) pot pie recipes are, and it probably would've been easier if I wasn't making ice cream at the same time. Definitely a repeat!

Melty Millennium Falcon
Delia's chicken and leek pot pie
adapted from Delia Smith

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (a 20 oz package)
3 leeks, thinly sliced, with tough green ends removed
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
12 oz hard cider
3 oz chicken broth (Delia calls for only hard cider, but I didn't want to open a 2nd bottle, so I used broth to fill in the rest of the liquid)
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
12 oz puff pastry (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
1 egg, lightly beaten
finely grated Parmesan for sprinkling
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:
15 oz milk
1 1/8 oz all-purpose flour
1 1/8 oz unsalted butter
pinch of cayenne pepper
1.5 oz sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 oz Parmesan, finely grated
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

[Edited: Apparently Delia is pretty strict about copyright, and I don't want to step on any toes, so please see her site for assembly instructions. I am including my measurements and list of ingredients, as I made quite a number of changes.]

Leftover puff pastry = dessert!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Incredible exploding white loaf (TWD: BwJ)

As I said in a post a few weeks ago, I discovered Tuesdays with Dorie long after they'd started baking through Baking: From My Home to Yours. But once I discovered the magical world of food blogs, I always enjoyed my friends' TWD posts. So when a new TWD group started this year, and I just happened to get the book, Baking with Julia, for Christmas, and I just happened to get some pressure from a certain someone, and I saw that the first two recipes were a bread and a yummy chocolate tart, of course I signed up. :)

After a busy Saturday morning, just as I was heading out the door to go grocery shopping, hubby said, "Hey, what about chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner?!" We had no bread in the house, but I remembered that the BwJ recipe was supposed to be fairly quick (it says, "Since the dough belongs to the direct-rise can mix a batch after breakfast and eat still-warm-from-the-oven bread for lunch."), so I took off my coat and mixed up the dough.

The method was a little unusual to me; you mix some water with the yeast and sugar and let it bubble (no surprise there), then add the flour and mix. Then add the salt. Then knead for a long while, and finally add the butter. But, as promised in the recipe, the dough did finally come together. It gave my stand mixer a workout, so I alternated between mixer and kneading by hand.

The dough rose while I was at the grocery store and a little over an hour later, I came home to this:

Instead of dividing the dough and shaping it into two 8x4 loaves, I left it as one massive piece and baked it in my pullman pan with the lid off. I couldn't believe the explosion when I peaked into the oven!

The bread had a slightly unusual flavor, but I couldn't quite place it. Maybe it's because we sliced it when it was still pretty warm. It made excellent grilled cheese sandwiches, and was pretty popular with everyone. Hubby used the rest of the loaf to make eggs-in-a-nest for breakfast over the next several mornings; he was very happy. :)

Laurie and Jules, the fearless leaders of TWD, are the hosts this week, so check out their blogs for the recipe!