Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TWD: Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Just a note: I am on vacation from work until January 5, and due to Christmas festivities, my posting will probably be infrequent. There's a lot to post about, but not enough time to post about it!

Because of the holidays, the Tuesdays With Dorie schedule has also been relaxed. I am posting December 9's recipe today - Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies. Today's recipe selection is courtesy of Ulrike of Küchenlatein. Thanks for this choice, Ulrike - it's perfect for the holidays!

Earlier this year, I bought a star-shaped cookie cutter in anticipation of making cut-out cookies this Christmas, and I was excited to finally put it to use.

These sugar cookies, with Dorie's instructions, aren't really suited to making perfect cut-outs. Other TWD bloggers mentioned their cookies didn't retain their shape very well. But if you refrigerate them before and after rolling and cutting out the cookies, they keep their shape almost perfectly.

The result is a cookie that looks great and tastes delicious. This recipe will definitely be my standby cut-out cookie recipe in the future.

I used a pressurized can of Wilton icing with decorating tips (sacrilege, I know) and it didn't create the prettiest designs - the nozzle was way too sensitive. So my cookies don't get any bonus points for beauty, but the taste is more than enough to make up for it.

From now until January 1, Tuesdays With Dorie is accepting new members. If you would like to join, this may be your last chance! Email Laurie at tuesdayswithdorie at gmail dot com to join.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cremini Mushroom and Blue Cheese Flatbread with Truffled Cream Cheese

This summer, my boyfriend ventured to Italy for two weeks with his family to visit landmarks from his maternal heritage. And upon his return, he made sure to spoil me with some culinary souvenirs. Like truffles! Lots and lots of truffles.

I have never had pure truffles before - just heard about their loveliness, and tasted enough truffled honey to realize that I like the flavour. So owning 3 jars of truffles and 1 jar of truffle oil feels like winning the lottery.

Now, what to make with truffles? First up: Cremini Mushroom and Blue Cheese Flatbread with Truffled Cream Cheese.

If you don't have truffles, the cream cheese would be just as good with some thyme leaves mixed in. Garlic and herb cream cheese would be yummy, too.

Because of the truffles, this recipe might sound complicated, but it's actually really easy. Spread cream cheese on raw, rolled out pizza dough, scatter sauteed mushrooms on top, and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese. Bake, and you're done. Keep reading for the recipe.

Cremini Mushroom and Blue Cheese Flatbread with Truffled Cream Cheese

Makes 1 flatbread

1/2 batch of standard pizza dough recipe (I used this recipe)
1/2 brick plain cream cheese (or garlic and herb cream cheese)
1/2 a truffle, or a sprinkle of fresh or dried thyme
1 (220g) package pre-sliced cremini mushrooms
White wine
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

The night before you make the flatbread, grate truffles (or sprinkle thyme) into cream cheese.

When ready to assemble, preheat oven to 450 degrees (or according to your recipe's directions). Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release their juices and brown, approximately 10 minutes. Add a splash of white wine and continue cooking until it has evaporated. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roll pizza dough into a long, thin rectangle and place on baking sheet. Spread cream cheese on dough, leaving a thin edge for a crust (a graduated spatula works perfectly for this step). Sprinkle mushrooms in top of dough and cream cheese, and finally, sprinkle with blue cheese. Bake for 10-12 minutes,
or according to your recipe's directions.

Cut into slices or squares and serve.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Buttery (Apricot) Jam Cookies

Oh, buttery jam cookies. You didn't really stand a chance.

You are the embodiment of cookie flavours that I'm not a fan of. Jam in cookies? Check. Buttery, shortbread-esque taste? Check. No chocolate or icing to speak of? Check!

But I tried anyway, just in case. Dorie has a way of surprising me, making me fall in love with recipes that initially made me hesitate.

I wish I could say the same for this recipe. I tried, honest.

But in the end, I just found it a little boring. The dried ginger in the recipe, which should've given it a nick kick of flavour, wasn't detectable (to me) in the finished cookie.

And so I was left with a perfectly fine cookie, perfectly cooked after 9 minutes but imperfectly browned on the bottom. Just fine. Not spectacular.

But I think that people that do like this type of cookie would like this recipe. It just wasn't for me.

Still, thank you to Heather of Randomosity and the Girl for this week's choice! You can find the recipe at her blog. To read other TWD bakers' blogs, check out the blogroll here.

There are two more pictures after the jump, if you're interested.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Four Foods on Friday #59

I'm back with Four Foods on Friday, finally!

Here are this week's questions:

#1. What’s your favorite kind of roll?
It may sound strange, but I've never been much of a bread-with-dinner. I do happen to love ciabatta bread, though - does that count as a roll?

#2. Got a tip for keeping your cabinets or pantry organized?
Organize things in groups. Keep all of your canned goods together, all of your grains together, all of your teas together, etc. Keep it organized like a grocery store would. Then you won't spend so much time scrambling to find things.

#3. What’s your favorite kind of pastry?
I love cream puffs! I'm no elitist about it, either. My favourite actually come in a square plastic bin. They're frozen and you can buy them from Costco. I know it's practically sacrilege to say so, but I prefer them to the real deal.

#4.Share any original recipe.
I want to share my crab cakes with red curry mayo, but the problem is, I don't have much of a recipe. I use 1 can of crab meat, some minced fake crab meat (I know, more sacrilege!), and 1 egg. From there, I throw in a mix of Thai-style ingredients until I'm content with the flavour and the consistency - fish sauce, lime juice, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, a tiny bit of red curry paste, and finally, bread crumbs.

The red curry mayo makes the dish, and it's as simple as it sounds to make. Put however much mayonnaise you'd like (no Miracle Whip please - real mayo) in a small bowl. Then mix in red curry paste, 1/2 tsp. at a time, until you're happy with the heat and the flavour. Serve the mayo, with a spoon, alongside the crab cakes. It tastes great spooned atop the crab cakes! It also works really well with tuna patties and even battered fish.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Asiago and Cheddar

I can recall very vividly the first time I made macaroni and cheese. I must have been about 4 years old. I was craving macaroni and cheese and thought I'd give it a try by myself. I didn't really understand the concept, though, and had already learned that ovens and stove tops were for grownup use only. My solution? Dump Kraft Dinner noodles into a tupperware container. Pour cold water over noodles. Wait 20 minutes to see if noodles soaked up the water. Upon seeing disappointing results, abandon efforts.

Luckily, my culinary skills have improved since then.

I blogged very briefly about my favourite Macaroni and Cheese recipe in an earlier round of Four Foods on Friday, but this recipe makes such frequent appearances in my kitchen that I thought it deserved its own post - and some pictures of my own. Mac and cheese might not be classy but it is delicious, and this one's all-natural.

It's another one of those recipes where no matter what type of cheese you have on hand, it's bound to turn out perfectly. Last night, I didn't have enough cheddar in the fridge - but I did have a few slices of Asiago.

Cheddar and asiago may sound like a strange combination, but it was actually delicious - the best it's ever tasted, even. Keep reading for the tweaked recipe.

Traditional Macaroni and Cheese
6 servings

* 1 2/3 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
* 2 tablespoons cornstarch
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
* 1 can (12 fl. oz.) Evaporated Milk
* 1 cup water
* 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
* 1 3/4 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
*1.5 oz asiago cheese, shredded (for my Canadian readers, I used 2 slices of pre-sliced Tre Stelle Asiago, broken into pieces)
* Ground black pepper to taste
*Seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease a 9"x9" casserole dish.

Combine cornstarch, salt, mustard and pepper in medium saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk, water, butter (or margarine), and worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese and crumbled asiago until melted. Add macaroni; mix well. Pour into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese on top. Top with enough bread crumbs to lightly cover the macaroni.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and light brown and sauce is bubbling.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Farfalle with Creamy Mushroom, Prosciutto and Pecorino Sauce

I've been loving Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta lately. So many of the recipes sound delicious, and the ones I have made leave plenty of room for experimentation and still turn out perfectly. It seems like no matter the type of cheese I have on hand, even if it's nothing like what the recipe calls for, the end result is perfect. And since December is often a busy month, filled with holiday preparations, I love that the recipes take the guess-work out of the cooking method. That means I get to have fun with the ingredients.

This recipe originally had a heavy hit of blue cheese, but I prefer adding just a little bit of blue cheese for a hint of the flavour. I have a ton of pecorino romano on hand, and its sharpness adds a great kick to the bechamel sauce. But I think parmesan or asiago would work just as well. Keep reading for the recipe.

Farfalle with Creamy Mushroom, Prosciutto and Pecorino Sauce
Original recipe from Everyday Pasta by Giada DeLaurentiis

2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 C milk, at room temperature
1 oz. blue cheese, cubed or shredded into small pieces with a fork
5 oz. pecorino romano cheese or other sharp Italian cheese (i.e. Asiago or Parmigiano Reggiano)
2-3 thin slices of prosciutto, chopped (or you could use some chopped cooked chicken or ham)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
3/4 C frozen peas
1 pound farfalle pasta

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and very lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Add the milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the pecorino and blue cheese and stir until melted. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and prosciutto and saute until mushrooms are golden and have released their juices, about 12 minutes. Stir in the peas and heat for one minute more. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain. Add mushrooms, prosciutto, peas, and cooked farfalle to sauce and mix well to combine. Heat through if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Quick Note: Wii + Wii Fit Giveaway

I love a good contest. Which is why I'm so excited about La Petite Chic's Wii and Wii Fit Giveaway! I've been wanting a Wii ever since they came out, and the release of the Wii Fit just made me want one even more. It's hard to justify the expense, though, especially since I'm saving for a DSLR.

A Wii Fit has got to come in handy for burning off all of the calories I'm consuming from Tuesdays with Dorie and Daring Bakers challenges. If you're thinking the same thing, you should enter. But hurry; the contest ends tomorrow, December 4. Click here to enter. Good luck!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Daring Bakers: Caramel (Cup)Cake(s) with Caramelized Butter Frosting

I feel like a fool. Somehow, I forgot to post November's Daring Bakers challenge! The post date was supposed to be this past Saturday, but I was away with family. Even though I baked the recipe weeks ago, somehow I forgot I hadn't posted about it until I was sitting in a lunch meeting today and my mind drifted over to the subject of cupcakes. Yes, that train of thought comes around fairly often.

How perfect, then that this month's Daring Bakers selection is Caramel Cake! It's from Shuna Fish Lydon of Bay Area Bites fame. She's the genius behind this fantastic recipe.

Now, the original recipe didn't call for cupcakes. But I happen to find regular old cake a bit stuffy and boring, and nothing spruces up a cake batter better than pouring it into individual molds and calling it an infinitely-cuter cupcake. I just can't resist a cupcake.

Caramel cake requires you to make your own caramel syrup. Err on the side of caution when making the syrup; this month, many a Daring Baker threw away too-stiff batches of caramel syrup and had to start all over again. Once the syrup is made, the recipe comes together quite easily. I do recommend making the syrup in advance. It keeps well at room temperature in a mason jar.

The flavour it lends to the cupcakes is wonderful! It made the cakes moist and dense. The caramel flavour was rich, and these cakes were very sweet. And they paired perfectly with the brown butter-caramel icing, which sounds very complicated and gourmet, but really isn't all that difficult to make.

Dividing the recipe in half yielded 10 cupcakes -- 10 cupcakes which went very quickly when I brought them to my boyfriend's house. He and his roommates devoured them in just a couple of days, and would have devoured them faster if I didn't need to wait for daylight to photograph them.

I'm filing these under must, must, must make again.

This month's hosts are Dolores, Alex, and Jenny. Natalie helped them find gluten-free alternatives. Thank you!

Visit Shuna for the recipe.

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