Sunday, March 27, 2016

Country Living: Hot Cross Buns

I've never made hot cross buns, but it's never too late to remedy that, right?  I even did my research.  Versions of this bun have been around since at least Queen Elizabeth I's time, and possibly dating back to before Christianity.  That's pretty impressive.  The ones they make in the UK and Australia normally have a cross of flour and oil piped on the top before it's baked, but here in the US, we like our buns with actual frosting on top.  It's like a delicious little raisin bread bun, and my nephew snapped his up and cried for more, so I guess these pass muster.  Definitely try them toasted and buttered the next day.

Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from Country Living, June 2007

1 cup half-and-half, warmed to between 105°F and 115°F
1 (¼-ounce) package dry active yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon barley malt syrup (or granulated sugar)
3 cups bread flour
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup currants (or raisins)
2 tablespoons candied lemon peel
2 tablespoons candied orange peel
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground star anise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk

⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

Make the dough:
Coat a large bowl with oil and set aside. Combine the half-and-half, yeast, and barley malt syrup in a small bowl and let stand until bubbly. Combine the flours, sugar, currants, candied peels, salt, and spices in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook (or in a large mixing bowl) and mix on low speed. Add the butter, eggs, vanilla bean paste, and the yeast mixture, and continue to mix until a sticky dough forms, about 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth, about 5 minutes. (If dough has been combined by hand, increase kneading time to 10 minutes.) Form the dough into a ball, place it in the prepared bowl, and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in volume -- about 1 hour.

Shape the buns:
Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Punch the dough down, transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead for 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized pieces, about 4 ounces each. Shape each piece into a ball and place the balls about 1 inch apart in three rows of four on the prepared pan. Cover and let rise until the buns double in volume and touch one another, about 1¼ hours.

Bake the buns:
Preheat oven to 500°F. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the mixture on the top of each bun. Place buns in the lower third of the oven and reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

Ice the buns:
In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, remaining milk, and vanilla. Stir until smooth. When buns have cooled slightly, drizzle a horizontal line across each row of buns followed by a vertical line to form a cross on the crown of each bun.

Makes 12 buns

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Twisted Noodle: Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms

Since I love-love-love Brussels sprouts, I'm always looking for a new way to cook them up and convert others to join the Brussels Sprouts Fan Club.  I've noticed that using bacon always helps, as most people would even eat cardboard as long as it was smeared with bacon grease.  But another personal favorite, mushrooms, also joins the party here, so I personally think this is pretty much the pinnacle of veggie side dishes.  Wait, what am I saying?  Side dish?  I ate this bad boy as my main dish, and it was delicious.

Note: I used cremini, oyster, and brown clamshell mushrooms, but go for anything that looks good at your store.  You can even use plain 'ol white mushrooms if you don't want to drop the extra cash for wild.  I used a 10 year old balsamic vinegar.  Try to use something halfway decent since you're pouring it all over your veggie.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms
Adapted from Twisted Noodle blog

¼ pound applewood smoked bacon, cut into batons
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound mixed wild mushrooms, sliced or separated
2 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Brown bacon in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and let cook for about 60 seconds.  Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, and when melted, add the mushrooms.  Increase heat to medium high.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and add Brussels sprouts.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until Brussels sprouts are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add remaining butter with the Brussels sprouts if the pan is too dry.

Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook another 2 to 4 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Remove from heat, and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bon Appétit: Colcannon

Normally I'm more excited about St. Patrick's Day, but for some reason I can't muster much energy for cooking lately.  I just want to eat out of to-go containers and skip the big mess in the kitchen.  But I've been eyeing this recipe for colcannon, and it's the perfect time of year to give it a whirl, so I really can't justify going for some more reheated Tex-Mex.  These potatoes are creamy and delicious, and it certainly doesn't hurt that there's a great leek-garlic thing going on in the background.

Note:  I found that dumping the potatoes into the milk/cream gives you ZERO leverage for adjusting the liquidity of the recipe, so I say that you should add the milk to the potatoes a little at a time, not the other way around.  Because once you add the milk, you can't un-add it.

From Bon Appétit magazine, March 2016

5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1¾ pounds)
Sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups (packed) shredded savoy cabbage (from about ¼ large head), divided
1¼ cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
1½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Cover potatoes with water in a small pot; season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until a paring knife slides easily through the flesh, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain, let cool slightly, and peel.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and leeks are just beginning to brown around the edges, about 3 minutes longer. Add 1 cup cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted. Add milk and cream and bring to a simmer.
Add potatoes and remaining 1 cup cabbage, then coarsely mash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer colcannon to a large serving bowl. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with scallion.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Mar-a-Lago Club: Key Lime Pie

My sister is currently 8+ months pregnant, and it is nearing her birthday.  We asked what she wanted for her birthday meal, and she told us Alaskan king crab legs, deviled eggs, chocolate fudge, and key lime pie.  If that's not a stereotypical pregnant woman meal, I'm not sure what is.  I think all we're missing is some pickles.  But I made sure to fulfill her wishes (everyone gets what they want on their birthday), and I used this fabulous pie recipe to do it.

Note:  You really should take the advice and freeze the pie briefly before cutting.  It's really too creamy to get a good slice otherwise, and it has a tendency to try and collapse as you're pulling it out of the pie plate.  Lesson learned.

Key Lime Pie
From Chef Jeff O'Neill at Mar-a-Lago Club, Palm Beach, FL

¾ pound graham crackers
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 1 Persian lime
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
⅔ cup fresh key lime juice (from about 2 pounds key limes)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Break up the graham crackers, place them in a food processor, and process into crumbs.  Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse until combined.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan, forming an even layer on the bottom, sides, and edge.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool.

While the crust is resting, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until fluffy, 5 or 6 minutes.  Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick, 3 to 4 minutes longer.  Lower the mixing speed and slowly add the key lime juice until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling has just set.  Cool on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until nearly stiff.  Evenly spread the whipped cream on top of the pie, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to serving.

Makes 12 servings

Friday, March 04, 2016

Creole Contessa: Lemon Pepper Salmon with Lemon Butter Rice

It's a great time of year for citrus.  Every time I go to the grocery store lately, there are these big heaps of yellow and orange fruits.  Shiny nubbly skins just waiting to be peeled.  So of course I want to buy these beautiful ripe citrus, parading saucily before me.  But then you actually have to do something with them.  So I decided I would do a dinner with lemon.  Lemon juice in the rice, lemon slices on the fish, and lemon pepper seasoning all around.  It was fantastic and refreshing and just the right dinner for the beginning of spring.

Note:  The rice mixture is really more a result of digging up the odds and ends of the rice in my pantry than any sort of actual planning or intent.  However, the arborio added a really nice creaminess and the basmati stayed a little more firm, so the texture overall was the best of both worlds.

Lemon Pepper Salmon with Lemon Butter Rice
Adapted from Creole Contessa blog

2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dried parsley
½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup basmati rice
¼ cup arborio rice
Sea salt

1 pound salmon fillets
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon Chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Redfish Magic seasoning or other Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lemon, sliced

For rice: In a medium pot, bring the chicken broth, butter, parsley, lemon pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and lemon juice to a boil.  Add the two rices and stir well.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and leave the pot covered for another 5 to 10 minutes to allow the rice to absorb the remaining liquid.  Season with salt to taste.

For fish: Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and lay the salmon fillets on the pan.  Sprinkle evenly with the lemon pepper, blackening seasoning, and garlic powder.  Cut butter into ¼-inch pats, and lay them evenly over the fish fillets.  Place the lemon slices evenly over the butter.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until fish is desired doneness and flakes easily with a fork.  Serve with the lemon rice.

Makes 4 servings