Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pillsbury: Fudge Nut Orange Bars

You know those fist-sized chocolate candies shaped like oranges that taste like happiness?  The ones you have to smack on the counter to break into "segments"?  Well, this is that candy, in bar form.  And I'll give you one guess which option I picked when it came to OJ versus liquor.  Hint: I don't have any OJ.

Fudge Nut Orange Bars
From Pillsbury

1 (15¼-ounce) package butter cake mix
1 cup rolled oats
⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup ground pecans
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
½ cup orange juice or orange liquor

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon orange juice or orange liquor

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch pan.

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine cake mix, oats, and butter at low speed until fine crumbs form. Reserve 1 cup crumbs for filling. To remaining crumbs, blend in 1 egg until well mixed. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium saucepan, heat chocolate chips, sugar, and butter over low heat, stirring constantly, until chips are melted. Remove from heat.  Add eggs; mix well. Stir in remaining filling ingredients. Pour over base; sprinkle with 1 cup of reserved crumbs.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and center is set. Cool completely.  In a small saucepan, heat all glaze ingredients over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Immediately drizzle over bars.  Cut into bars.

Makes 16 servings

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Emeril Lagasse: Sugarcane Baked Ham with Spiced Apples and Pears

I've had a ham taking up all the room in my freezer for a little while now.  Long story.  Basically involves getting a giant ham on special for $8.  But I got tired of this ham taking up all my freezer room.  So it was time to cook the darn thing.  And why not cook it coated in every type of sugary substance they sell at the grocery store?  And since I couldn't find swizzle sticks, but they actually had sugar canes at Central Market, I got to take out all my aggression with a cleaver.  I swear, the lady downstairs probably thinks I was killing someone.  Totally worth it.

Sugarcane Baked Ham with Spiced Apples and Pears
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

12 sugarcane swizzle sticks, each cut into about 3-inch pieces
1 hickory smoked ham, spiral sliced, 8 to 10 pounds (no bone, water added, cooked)
1½ pounds (about 3 to 4) Granny Smith apples
1½ pounds (about 3 to 4) Bartlett pears

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup Steen's 100% Pure Cane Syrup
½ cup dark molasses
½ cup dark corn syrup
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons bourbon

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a shallow baking pan with parchment or waxed paper. Insert the sugarcane sticks into the ham at 3 to 4-inch intervals. Tie the ham, using kitchen twine, horizontally and vertically, like a package, to hold it together. Place it on a wire rack in the baking pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the glaze ingredients together except for the mustard and water. Mix well. In a small bowl, dissolve the mustard in the water, then add to the spice mixture. Blend well.

Brush the entire ham with the glaze, coating it evenly. Wash, core, and halve the fruit. Place all around the ham. Baste the ham a second time and baste the fruit with the glaze. Bake for 45 minutes. Baste the ham and fruit again.  Bake another 45 minutes. Remove the ham from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the string and swizzle sticks. Serve the apples and pears on a platter with the ham. Serve everything warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 servings

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gourmet: Seckel Pear Tart with Brandy Pear Cream

I can't resist Seckel pears when I see them.  They're just so cute.  And I'm all about cute.  I mean, tiny pears!  Okay, maybe it's just me.  But I made this beautiful tart with those tiny pears.  And it was amazingly delicious.  Very autumn.  And while the original recipe called for some $40 bottle of pear brandy called Poire William, I made do with pear juice and regular brandy.  Because I'm not going to spend that kind of money for 3 tablespoons.  I'm going to assume you won't either.  Still delicious.

Seckel Pear Tart with Brandy Pear Cream
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 2008

Sweet Pastry Dough
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup pear juice
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 pounds Seckel pears
3 large egg yolks
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons brandy, divided use
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon unflavored gelatin

Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 20-by 8-inch rectangle, re-flouring surface as necessary. Transfer to tart pan, gently fitting dough into pan without stretching. Trim overhang to ¾-inch, cutting off corners. Fold overhang inward to reinforce side, then trim flush with edge of pan. Reserve excess pastry for another use if desired. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights, then bake until sides are set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake shell until golden brown all over, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool completely in pan.

Put wine and pear juice in a wide 4-quart pot and stir in sugar and vanilla bean paste (or scrapings from vanilla bean). Carefully peel Seckel pears, leaving stems intact, then cut in half.  Using the tip of a vegetable peeler or a small knife, core the pears to remove seeds. Bring wine mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then add pears, in 1 layer if possible. Simmer, tightly covered, turning occasionally, until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Carefully transfer pears with a slotted spoon to a rack set over a 4-sided sheet pan to drain and cool, standing them upright. Transfer pear syrup to cleaned 2-cup measure, adding any juices from sheet pan under pears (you will have about 1½ cups syrup), and reserve for pastry cream and glaze.

Whisk together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk in 1 cup pear syrup. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tablespoons brandy and the butter. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely, its surface covered.

Stir together remaining 1 tablespoon of brandy and the gelatin in a very small bowl and let stand 1 minute. Bring remaining pear syrup to a boil in a very small heavy saucepan, then boil, if necessary, until reduced to about ⅓ cup. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat.

Remove side of tart pan. Whisk cooled pastry cream to loosen, then spread in shell. Lay pear halves on pastry cream, arranging them in 8 rows of 2 or 3. When glaze has cooled and thickened slightly (to speed cooling, set pan in an ice bath), brush it on pears. If glaze gels in pan, reheat very briefly.

Makes 8 servings

Note: Tart shell, poached Seckel pears, and pastry cream can be made 1 day ahead. The assembled tart can be kept at room temperature for 1 hour or chilled 4 hours.

Sweet Pastry Dough
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
1½ to 2 tablespoons ice water

Stir together flour, sugar, and salt, then blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Stir together egg yolk and 1½ tablespoons water and drizzle evenly over butter mixture. Gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add remaining ½ tablespoon ice water (or more, if necessary), stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. (Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.)

Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat.
Gather all dough into a ball, with a pastry scraper if you have one, then flatten into a disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kim Sunée: Crabapple Ginger Spice Cake

I think I should get the prize for the best way to bring in the cold weather of autumn.  Seriously.  We had a storm last night, and this morning it was in the fifties.  So I made this awesome spice cake.  I literally had to put the cake in the fridge to keep from eating more than was logical.  See?  I win.

Crabapple Ginger Spice Cake
Adapted from Kim Sunée

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons diced crystallized ginger
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 cups cored and coarsely chopped crabapples (from about 1 pound of crabapples)
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Gingered Whipped Topping

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ground ginger, cloves, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream both sugars, butter, and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, fresh ginger, crystallized ginger, and yogurt. Combine until well-blended and smooth.

Slowly mix in reserved flour mixture, and then fold in crabapples. Scrape batter into prepared springform pan. Sprinkle evenly with demerara sugar.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before eating, warm or cold. Serve, if desired, with Gingered Whipped Cream.

Gingered Whipped Cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

Using a hand mixer, whip cream with sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in crystallized ginger.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The New York Times: Concord Grape Sparkler

Who says newspapers are dead?  Well, this is the New York Times we're talking about.  And I assume they probably know their concord grape cocktails.  Why?  Just a gut feeling.  And guess what?  They do!  This is definitely something different.  But different in a good way.  Like the weird artsy girl who everyone wishes they were friends with in high school.  Except this one is spicy in a special, star anisey kind of way.

Concord Grape Sparkler
From The New York Times

1½ ounces Concord grape purée
1½ ounces vodka
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Citrus-based sparkling water
Cluster of whole Concord grapes for garnish.

Fill a cocktail shaker with several ice cubes, and shake together the grape purée, vodka and lemon juice.

Pour into a martini glass (or into a highball glass over ice) and top with sparkling water. Stir gently and garnish with a tiny cluster of grapes.

Makes 1 cocktail

Concord Grape Purée
1 pound whole Concord grapes, washed and stemmed
½ cup sugar, or to taste
2 pieces star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of ½ lime

Put all of the ingredients in a wide-bottomed stainless-steel pot, stirring to combine. Cook over medium-low heat until the grape skins fully separate, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool.

Strain the mixture using the back of a large spoon. The purée should be a vibrant eggplant color and thick.

Makes about 1 cup

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Better Homes and Gardens: Peach Cobbler

So, I'm at the farmer's market today.  And there's a pile of these beautiful peaches.  The most beautiful peaches I may have ever seen.  And instantly I know I must have them.  So I ask the guy how much they are.  What does he say?  They're free because they aren't as good as I hoped they'd be.  Uh.  Sure, why not.  I'll just bake them up into something magnificent, dude, so if you want to give them away, go for it.  And now I have this beautiful cobbler to stuff my mouth with.  And yes, I refuse to admit that summer's almost over.

Peach Cobbler
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

For topping
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup whole milk
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

For filling
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon ground mace
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup water
4 cups sliced peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the milk and egg; add all at once to the dry ingredients, stirring just to moisten. Set aside.

Combine the cornstarch, mace, brown sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Add the peaches, lemon juice, butter, and vanilla bean paste, if using. Cook until the peaches are hot, about 5 minutes.

Pour the filling into an 8-inch round baking dish. Immediately spoon on the biscuit topping in 6 mounds. Sprinkle biscuits with demerara sugar, if desired.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ren Behan: Kousa Mahshi (Lebanese Stuffed Globe Zucchini)

I really need to stop buying random produce at the grocery store.  But this time of year is so incredibly perfect for trying all sorts of fun little treats.  This is the last fruitful gasp of the summer.  And since I don't have zucchini taking over my patio (like most people's vegetable patches), I figured I could do the community a solid and actually EAT some of the overwhelming crop.

Kousa Mahshi (Lebanese Stuffed Globe Zucchini)
Adapted from Ren Behan

8 globe zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon group allspice
⅔ cup long grain Basmati rice
1½ cups hot lamb stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Extra chopped mint and parsley, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the tops off the zucchini and set aside. Using a small knife, spoon, or melon baller, carefully hollow out the insides of the zucchini. Chop the flesh, and also put aside. Place the hollowed zucchini in a roasting tin, sprinkle with two tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes (until tender).

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for a few minutes to soften. Add the ground lamb and fry, breaking up the large clumps with a wooden spoon, until brown, about five minutes. Add the chopped zucchini, cinnamon, and allspice, and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the rice and pour in the hot stock. Stir in the mint and parsley.  Bring back to the boil and then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Take the zucchini out of the oven and carefully spoon in the cooked rice mixture. Replace zucchini caps.  Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately with chopped fresh mint or parsley sprinkled over the top.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two Color String Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts

I found some nice wax beans at the store, but I certainly didn't want a three bean salad with those big nasty kidney beans and sour dressing.  These wax beans needed something absolutely delicious to do them justice.  So after wandering the back alleys of the internet, I put some ideas together and came up with this yummy dish of roasted beans with some non-traditional spices.  I'm not sure that anything can beat roasted veggies.  Well, probably chocolate.  But until dessert rolls around, these will work.

Two Color String Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts

¾ pound green beans
¾ pound wax beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon za'atar
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1½ tablespoons chives, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut stems from green and wax beans.  Toss with garlic and olive oil, and lay out on a baking sheet in an even layer.  Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, toast pine nuts until light brown, shaking the pan often to keep the nuts from burning.  Set aside.

When beans are done, transfer them to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with the za'atar, Aleppo pepper, chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4-6 servings

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Baked Explorations: Mississippi Mud Pie

I think I'm the designated birthday cake/pie/dessert baker.  But I always feel like I should offer.  Because shouldn't you have the most fabulous dessert possible on your birthday?  That's what I thought.  So this time around for my dad and brother-in-law, it's a big dish of chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate.  With whipped cream on top.  Incredibly rich.  Oh, and if you want pretty slices, you'll probably want to slap that bad boy in the freezer for about 10 minutes ahead of time.

Mississippi Mud Pie
From Baked Explorations

Chocolate cookie crust:
Nonstick cooking spray
16 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos (35 to 40 cookies), crushed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Flourless chocolate cake:
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent), chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
¼ cup strong coffee, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided use

Chocolate pudding:
¾ cup sugar
½ cup dark unsweetened good-quality cocoa powder
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
2½ cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent)

Whipped cream topping:
1¼ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Make the Chocolate Cookie Crust: Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper and lightly spray parchment and sides of pan.

Place cookies in the bowl of a food processor; process to very fine crumbs. You should have about 3½ cups. Transfer to a small bowl. Add melted butter and, using a spatula, stir until well combined. Pour crumb mixture into prepared pan and press evenly with the back of a spoon into bottom and up sides, leaving about ½-inch between the top of the crust and top of the pan. Transfer to freezer until crust is set, about 10 minutes.

Transfer crust to oven and bake until dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Make the Flourless Chocolate Cake: Increase oven temperature to 350°F.

Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water to melt; stir to combine. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together espresso powder, coffee, salt, and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar until light and almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low speed for 5 seconds. Add coffee mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low for 5 seconds.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually increase speed to high and slowly add remaining ½ cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Transfer 1 cup egg white mixture to chocolate mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, about 30 seconds. Add remaining egg whites and continue gently folding until they are almost completely combined; do not overmix. Pour into cooled cookie crust and transfer to oven. Bake until cake is set but still jiggles slightly, 38 to 42 minutes. It may not appear completely cooked. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cake will deflate in the center as it cools. Tightly wrap cooled cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Make the Chocolate Pudding: In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Add egg yolks and whisk until combined. The mixture will look like a thick paste. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly.

Place saucepan over medium heat and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the pan. Boil for 30 seconds and immediately transfer to a medium bowl. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate; whisk until combined. Continue whisking until mixture is cooled slightly. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, at least 3 hours.

Stir pudding to loosen and pour on top of cake, making sure to stay within the cookie crust border. Using an offset spatula, spread pudding to form an even layer on top of the cake. Transfer to refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Whipped Cream Topping: In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a chilled whisk attachment, beat cream until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Sprinkle sugar over cream and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over chilled pudding layer, working all the way out to the sides. Unmold cake and serve immediately. The cake can also be kept, covered, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

Friday, September 19, 2014

P.F. Chang's China Bistro: Key Lime Pie Martini

What time is it kidoes?  It's happy hour Friday time!  And this fabulous Friday afternoon we have for your delectation a beautiful, girly drink.  A dessert in a glass.  A true piece of art.  Nah, it's just Key lime pie in liquid form, but darn is it good.

Key Lime Pie Martini
Adapted from P.F. Chang's China Bistro

1½ ounces Licor 43
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (about 5 Key limes or 1 really juicy Persian lime), plus extra for rim of glass
1 ounce half and half
½ ounce Simple Syrup
½ cup prepared whipped cream (such as Extra-Creamy Reddi-Whip)
Crushed graham crackers
Lime wedge or zest, for garnish

Rim the martini glass with lime juice, then dip the rim in fine graham cracker crumbs. Put the glass into the freezer for 30 minutes or more before the drink is made.

Load a martini shaker half full of ice. Add the Licor 43, Key lime juice, half and half, and Simple Syrup. Add the whipped cream. Shake well. Strain and pour into the chilled martini glass and garnish, if desired, with additional whipped cream and lime.

Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir the mixture until all of the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.