Sunday, December 25, 2011

Had to try out my new toys!

It's Christmas and I received two new Danish dough whisk.  Sooooo, I had to try them out on some loaves of bread.  We need toasting bread for tomorrow and I enjoyed the Honey Whole Wheat Challah so much I decided to make it again, but this time in bread pans.  The recipe is from Inside the Jewish Bakery.  The only change I made to the recipe was to bake the loaves almost 40 minutes to ensure they were cooked throughout, 25 minutes for 9 x 5 loaf pans just didn't seem right.  Here's the result --

And here is another bread from today's baking spree, olive bread from The Il Fornaio Baking Book by Franco Galli.  I haven't cut this bread to look at the crumb but I may finally have some holey bread here.  I got alot of oven spring so I am ever hopeful of holes.  This will be our soup bread for the week.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Today's Experiment - Chess Pie

Okay, so I searched for chess pie recipes and came up with one that looked plausible.  It seemed very simple, beat eggs, sugar, cornmeal, butter, buttermilk, salt and vanilla extract together, place in an uncooked pie shell.  Simple!  Bake for 15 mins at 375F reduce to 350F bake another 20 mins.  Ha!

The pie was hardly cooked by then but the top was already browning, so I reduced the heat to 325F and baked for another 40 minutes, finally done.  It's cooling now on a wire rack -
It looks like a poorman's creme brulee.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Amaretti Cookies - Again

Every year I torture myself by attempting to make amaretti.  This year was no exception, but I am so close to the perfect cookie I can smell them!  They are crunchy, chewy and just about right except for the shaping.  I really need to get a professional pastry bag and tips instead of relying on the el cheapo ones I bought years ago.  If I had the right tip these cookies would be perfect.

I couldn't bear to throw out the one egg white I had left over from yesterday's cookie baking(jam pockets). so I tried again.

Amaretti recipe for 1 egg white -

Preheat oven to 300F

5/8 cup almonds ground and sifted into bowl
¾ tsp. Cornstarch
¼ cup confectioners sugar, sifted into bowl

Combine all three in a bowl and mix well.

1 egg white
pinch cream of tartar
3 T. granulated sugar

In a separate bowl, beat 1 egg white and a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy.  Gradually add 3 T. granulated sugar one T. at a time beating well after each addition.  Continue to be the egg white until stiff peaks form.  

1/8 tsp. Almond extract

Fold in the almond mixture and almond extract into the egg white mixture.  Using a number seven tip in the pastry bag, pipe one inch circles of the mixture onto a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until lightly colored.  Turn off the oven, leave cookies in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven to cookie racks and allow the cookies to cool completely.  Store in an air tight canister.  Makes about 24 cookies.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jam Pockets or Fagottini D'Albicocca

Today, I made one of Michael's favorite cookies, jam pockets or in Italian Fagottini.  These little gems are made of a delicate pasta frolla dough stuffed with a smidgen of apricot or raspberry jam.  We prefer the apricot.  They are light as a feather. The recipe is from the Il Fornaio Baking Book by Franco Galli.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookbook Challenge Week 3 - Challah

This week's Inside the Jewish Bakery challenge recipe is Honey Whole Wheat Challah.  The loaves took 2 hours for their first rise (bulk fermentation).  I shaped the two loaves and am now proofing them prior to baking - here's a picture of them in the final proofing stage.

I just gave them anohter 20 minutes to proof and then I think they will be ready to glaze with an egg wash and add poppy seeds and sesame seeds.  They bake for about 40 minutes in 350F oven.  Each loaf is 1 1/2 lbs. though they look on the small side to me.  Hope they taste good!
Here they are fresh out of the oven--

Monday, December 19, 2011

What's in the Eatwell Box? 12/21/2011

This week's box from Eatwell Farm contains the following items:

Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley
Navel Oranges
Mixed Baby Lettuce
Broccoli, Cauliflower or Romanesco
Napa Cabbage
Pink Lady Apples
Winter Squash

Rosemary is good in a stuffing for the winter squash along with some of the parsley. Navel oranges and apples are set aside for lunches. Save the celery for soups or add to a mizutake (Japanese style soup) along with the napa cabbage, carrots, chard, some cubed chicken and udon noodles. Broccoli or cauliflower gratin along with spinach and some lamb chops - makes a good winter dinner and don't forget a side salad with the mixed baby lettuces, some sliced fruit, a sprinkle of pecans and some blue cheese. It all sounds good to me! Bon Appetit!

Borscht and Sourdough Rye

Well, there is no such thing as just a little soup, but is there such a thing as too much soup? Yes, if it doesn't all fit in the pot. I went a little overboard today when making borscht. We bought too many beets and I ended up with 3 gallons of soup - too much for my 2 gallon pot, so there were two 2 gallon pots on the stove bubbling away with beets, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, fennel bulb, chicken broth and seasonings. I kept out a half gallon of soup and froze the rest - lots of soup for those cold winter nights.

And what I've been longing to do is make a sourdough rye to go with that soup. has the perfect recipe - a dark rye with fennel, anise and caraway seeds as well as orange zest. I made the bread before and it is really tasty and hearty so right now I'm mixing up the dough and preparing it for its 12-14 hour rest overnight on the counter. Then, it will be shaped, allowed to proof, and baked, hopefully in time for lunch. Winter is a wonderful time for soup!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Back to the Old Standard Bread

I decided to return to my roots as it were, and reprise an old standard bread recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book, Whole Wheat Bread. I topped the loaf with a little egg wash and some sesame seeds before baking. It came out pretty well, I think. It's not 100% whole wheat but about 70% whole wheat - (2 1/2 cups ww flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour). I used to make this bread every week for morning toast. After seeing and smelling it, I remember why - it's just good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Florentines from Inside the Jewish Bakery

I am participating in a cookbook challenge on Each week we are baking one recipe from Inside the Jewish Bakery by Ginsberg and Berg. This week's challenge recipe was florentines. These are delicate lacy cookies with melted chocolate in the middle. The cookies were not that hard to make, but took just about every surface I had that could be used as a cookie sheet, including the pizza pan to bake the whole batch. The only caveat is you need to work fast when dropping teaspoons of hot cookie 'goo' onto the parchment lined baking sheets. You also need to let the cookies rest on the parchment but off the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes before you attempt to move them to the cooling racks. Here's a picture of my rendition of this recipe. (PS. they are sweet and tasty - and oh so addictive).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Italian Taralle Cookies (Taralluces)

Christmas baking continues today with taralluces - little taralle cookies.  My Grandmother Rinaldi used to make these and taught my Mom how to make them.  Mom would make them for special occasions like Christmas.  The recipe is pretty straight forward.  The hardest part is getting the cookies shaped prior to baking because the dough is rather sticky and requires a quick and steady well-floured hand to roll a small 'snake' of dough and tie in a knot.  Here's a picture of the shaped cookies prior to baking -

After baking the cookies expand quite a bit and before they are iced and sprinkles added, they look pretty non-descript -

Once they are completely cooled, the cookies are dipped in confectionary sugar icing and sprinkles are added.  These cookies are so light but flavorful - they disappear really quickly.
The recipe -

Taralluces (Little Taralle Cookies)

3 Eggs
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
3/4 Crisco, melted and cooled to body temp (do not allow to solidify)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract(or use all vanilla if you prefer)
3 cups All purpose flour
3 rounded tsp. baking powder
For icing:
1 pkg confectioners(powdered) sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon or vanilla extract(your choice)

In a stand mixer -
Beat eggs well.  Add sugar and milk gradually.  Continue beating.  Add Criso, beat.  Add extracts and beat.  In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder.  Add the flour mixture 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed just to incorporate after each addition.  Dough will be sticky.  Flour your work surface and hands well.  Take about 1 TBSP of dough and roll into a 'snake' shape about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and 3-4 inches long.  Tie the dough rope into a knot as if for knotted rolls.  Place on cookie sheet, leaving at least an inch between cookies.  Bake at 400F for 7-10 minutes until bottom is lightly browned.  Removed from oven and place on cooling racks.  Allow to cool completely. 

For icing: in a small bowl, add vanilla and milk to the confectioners sugar a little at a time until a smooth icing about the consistency of cold molasses is achieved.  Dip the to of each cookie in the icing and set down on a rack under which waxed paper has been placed to catch the drips.  Immediately sprinkle with colord non-pareil sprinkles.  Let dry overnight before putting in a plastic container or cookie tins for storage.
Yield: Approximately 7 dozen cookies

Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee, or just by themselves but be careful, they are addictive.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Indian Lamb with Onions and Potatoes, Yum!

Today was a full on baking and cooking day.  I baked a loaf of Rustic Bread (recipe on then went to the store to get supplies for baking MORE Christmas cookies.  In the afternoon, Michael and I prepared a leg of lamb for one of our favorite recipes, Indian Lamb with Potatoes and Onions.  The recipe is in A Taste of India Cookbook by Madjhur Jaffrey.  I can't say enough good things about this recipe.  It takes time to prepare but is definitely worth it.  The sauce for the lamb is just 4 large sliced onions sauteed in veg oil for an hour or so until they are a warm brown color.  The lamb meat, cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks, is marinated in dry spices of garlic, ginger, red pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander and tumeric.  When the onions are browned, you add the meat to the pot and saute for 10 minutes, then add about 5 or 6 yukon gold potatoes cut in a 2 inch dice and cook for an additional 5 minutes, add 2 cups of water, stir, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer for 1 hour 10 minutes.  MMMMmmmmmmm.  Serve with some good bread and a side of spinach for a great meal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grammie Soup!

This is the soup I'm making today. There's a big soup pot of it simmering on the stove right now. It's a variation on a soup my Grandmother would make with escarole and sausage. It was a special soup and a first course for many a holiday meal.

Grandma’s Escarole (or other greens) Soup

2 large onions diced (or a bunch of leeks work well, too)
4 large carrots diced
4 stalks celery diced
1 fennel bulb diced or one celeriac diced (optional)
3 cups cooked beans (chickpeas, cannelini beans, baby limas or any small white bean)
3 large bunches of greens (escarole, dandelions, mustard greens, kale, spinach, Eatwell stir-fry mix, whatever you like, use a variety of greens)
8 cups of veggie broth – or chicken broth if you prefer
4 cups of water
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP dried oregano
2 TBSP dried Italian parsley
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp crushed whole fennel seeds(optional)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
black pepper and salt to your taste

In a heavy bottomed large soup pot, place the 4 TBSP olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring until wilted (do not brown).  Add the diced carrots, celery, fennel, salt, the dried herbs and bay leaves – stir well,  lower the heat and cover to ‘sweat’ the veggies and herbs for about 5 minutes.  Add the veggie broth and water and bring to a boil.  Add the greens and beans – simmer until  the veggies and greens are tender. Correct seasoning – add salt or more pepper if needed.  You may add some more water as well along with the broth, if you like more liquid in your soup. 

If you are of the meat-eating persuasion, try adding 1 lb. cut up Italian sausage to the olive oil, browning the meat before adding the onions and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.  Makes a gallop-cious full up pot of soup.  Freeze some for later and eat some now. 

This soup is open to endless possibilities – use some small pasta instead of the beans if you prefer.  Or add diced cooked chicken to the pot, or make small turkey meatballs that you drop into the boiling soup.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today's Experiments

Today, I made two loaves of the Whole Wheat Bread in Peter Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice.  They came out OK, not terrific, just OK.  I was hoping for a little more bread in the pans and it was a little more.  The texture seems light enough, but the tops of the loaves look underdeveloped like I didn't knead enough - but I let the dough go for 15 minutes in the kitchen aid mixer so it should have been more than enough.  I didn't want to proof it any more than an hour in the pans because it was beginning to look a little saggy.  Anyway I'll post a picture soon.

Experiment number 2 is Mohn Bars from Inside the Jewish Bakery.  I'm not sure these are going to be a winner.  Lots of work for not so great stuff.  The dough used for the base of the cookies was dry and needed to be patted into the baking dish instead of rolled out.  The poppyseed filling seems runny to me (supposed to be like cooked farina according to the recipe).  The streusal topping is kind of tasteless- I added a bit more sugar to compensate for that.  The cookie base is baking now in the oven and then I will add the poppyseed filling and streusal topping and bake for another 20-30 minutes.  The jury is still out on this one.  Wow!  What a surprise - these are the tastiest cookies ever!  Rich but subtle. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What's in this week's box? 12/7/2011

Another week gone already?  Well, here is what's in the box from Eatwell Farm this week:

Navel Oranges
Red Cabbage
Broccoli or Cauliflower
Bok Choy
Daikon Radish(es)
Italian Parsley

Hmmm - red cabbage, turnips, carrots, radishes - it's beginning to sound like borscht to me.  A hearty bowl of borscht and a slice of sourdough rye bread and I'm set for any meal.  Broccoli or cauliflower with almonds, garlic and breadcrumbs sauteed and poured over some gemelli pasta - thank you Lidia Bastianich for a great recipe ( Bok choy say stir fry.  Navel oranges will be good for lunches or snacks.  Make up some salad dressing with the pomegranate and serve over the arugula teamed up with sliced pear and toasted pinenuts, or if you prefer, a nice spinach salad with some slices of navel orange.  Lots of possibilities!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cookie Baking 2011 Has Begun!

Christmas season baking has begun! Today I made one batch of Anise Biscotti from the Il Fornaio Baking Book and one batch of Mint Surprise Cookies.  The mint cookies have a 'long' history in our family. The recipe is the winner of the very first Pillsbury bake off, I believe.  My Aunt Eva got the recipe in Minnesota and tested it out on my cousins.  They loved them.  She shared the recipe with the rest of the family, including my Mom and Aunt Kay in Connecticut.  They were an instant hit.  In the 50's Mom would buy Rockwood Mints to make the cookies, but those mints are no longer available.  We used Andes Mints for a while, 1/3 of a mint in each cookie.  Recently, I tried using the Deep Forest Mint chocolate from Endangered Species for a more 'grown up' cookie flavor.  I use 1/2 of a square in each cookie (so 30 cookies can be made with each bar).  They're expensive but well worth it.  Each cookie is topped with a pecan half (Mom used walnuts, Aunt Kay used pecans). 

Here's the recipe:

Mint Surprise Cookies
Yield: Approximately 80 cookies
Preheat oven to 375F.

Sift in bowl:  3 1/2 cups flour
         1 tsp. baking soda
         1/2 tsp salt
Cream in separate bowl: 1/2 cup butter
         1/2 cup shortening
         1 cup granulated sugar
         1/2 cup brown sugar
Add: 2 eggs
         1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mint Chocolate
Pecan or walnut halves

Blend dry ingredients gradually.  Mix thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.  Cut the mint chocolate into pieces no more than 1/2 inch square.  Cover each piece of chocolate with a thin layer of dough to form a small cylinder no more than 1/2 inch high and 1 inch in diameter.  Top each cookie with half a pecan or walnut. Place on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Remove from oven, place on wire rack to cool.  Pack these cookies separately from other cookies as their mint flavor will 'infect' other milder flavored cookies.