Thursday, December 8, 2016

Brown Butter "Crispy" Chocolate Chip Cookies & December's Give-Away Apron

Some people like their chocolate chip cookies soft and gooey, but I'm weird and love thin and crispy! I don't think it matters what side you're on, but I will say, these are darn good and worth a try.  Maybe it will be a mind changer!

I actually baked these with the intention of getting them up on the blog for the feast of St. Nicholas--December 6th; a day we like to honor in our home.  However, in spite of good intentions, it never happened.  I have a collection of Father Christmases (aka St. Nicholas) and have always celebrated this particular day with high regard.  His reputation as a bringer of gifts is known world-wide. In Europe, especially Germany and Poland, boys dress as bishops begging alms for the poor.  In the Ukraine, children wait for St. Nicholas to come and put a present under their pillows...provided they have been good.  In the Netherlands, Dutch children put out a clog filled with hay and a carrot for Sinterklaas' horse.  In the United States, one custom associated with Saint Nicholas Day is children leaving their shoes in the foyer in hopes that he will place some coins on the soles...typical of our Capitalism values:-)!

Brown Butter Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
14 T (1 stick + 6T) unsalted butter, browned
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 extra large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup room temperature water
1 cup + 2T King Arthur all-purpose flour (plain flour)
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

In a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium heat until he foams and browns...about 7 - 9 minutes.
Pour butter into a heat-proof dish and allow to cool slightly.  Place in the refrigerator to firm up again.

In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the dry ingredients and chips.  Stir until well incorporated.
Transfer the dough to parchment paper and wrap.  Chill for 30 minutes in the freezer.
Preheat oven to 325F-degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop up about 1 1/2T dough and place on the parchment line baking sheet, spacing them about 3 inches apart.  Squish them either by pressing your palm, flat bottom of a glass, or dough tamper as I did. Flatten to about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until the cookies are kinda dark golden brown.  Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

This month's apron is brightly colored and full of the holiday spirit.  If you would like to win this apron, comment on any posts this month and you could be wearing this lovely apron!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sweet Potato's a Southern thing!

Sweet potatoes and cornbread are definitely Southern staples.  I love both and when I came across this recipe in Cook's Country magazine, I couldn't help but put it on my list to try.  After all, I grew up on cornbread, the best made by my mother and always in a cast iron skillet.  However, trying to incorporate sweet potatoes is tricky--getting a sweet potato flavor without a soggy bottom. That's what I love about America's Test Kitchen.

They tested several precooking methods--boiling, roasting, and microwaving and found the latter to be the best in controlling the moisture that sweet potatoes can give off.  But, they didn't stop at just testing the sweet potatoes. You will also notice the ratio of cornmeal to flour this recipe has.  Most of my recipes call for equal proportions, but ATK found that a 3:1 ratio of cornmeal to flour made a light, yet sturdy bread by changing it.  Finally, they added brown sugar, to develop a deeper color and enhance the flavor, instead of granulated sugar and shied away from adding spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg.  I usually add buttermilk or sour cream to my cornbread, like mom did, but they found that whole milk was preferred by their tasters.  There is a science to baking!

My mother liked to start her cast iron skillet in the preheated oven with a tablespoon of butter and this recipe calls to do the same.  I declare, it was such a good recipe and with a bowl of (vegetarian) chili, it was perfect for the chilly, overcast day; hubby said it was the best I've ever made!

Sweet Potato Cornbread
1 1/2 lbs. (about 2 large)sweet potatoes, unpeeled

Wash and prick potatoes all over with a fork.  Microwave on a large paper plate for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping every 5 minutes until the potatoes are soft and surfaces are slightly wet.  Immediately slice potatoes in half to release the steam.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop flesh into bowl and mash until smooth.  You should have about 1 3/4 cups).

Preheat oven to 425F-degrees.  Add 1 T butter to a 10-inch cast iron skillet to heat while mixing up cornbread.

8 T (1 stick/4oz) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz.) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz.) cornmeal 
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz.) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 tsp. salt

Whisk the melted butter, milk and eggs into the mashed sweet potatoes.
Whisk the dry ingredients together, then add to the sweet potato mixture and stir to combine.

Swirl skillet to coat bottom of skillet and pour batter into it.  Smooth top with a rubber spatula.  Bake until cornbread is golden brown and toothpick, inserted in center, comes out clean--25 to 30 minutes.

Allow cornbread to cool in skillet, about 30 to 1 hour.  Loosen edges and cut into wedges and serve. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bara Brith & November's Apron winner

My mother made the best fruitcake!  Now, before you say, "ugh," homemade fruitcake is nothing like the loaf you see wrapped in the grocery stores this time of year.  Her's were loaded with fruit and nuts with the perfect ratio of batter to hold everything together.  After the cakes were baked and cooled, she wrapped them in brandy-soaked cheesecloth and sealed them in tin cans weeks before Christmas. In thinking about it, as I write this post, it probably was the Brandy that made the difference:-)

The fruited cake I made this morning is called Bara Brith, which is Welsh for "Speckled Bread" and I thought it would be a good recipe to ease you into the idea of really good fruit cake! Loaded with raisins (sultanas) and currants, this tea bread makes the perfect mid-morning snack with a cup a tea.  This bread can be made with yeast or as I did today, with self-rising flour.  It is claimed to be invented by a Welsh chef who added dried fruit and spices to dough creating a newer version of a favorite tea bread.  There are similar loaves in Ireland--Barm Brack and in Scotland--Selkirk Bannock.  I have made Black Bun, which is similar and Scottish for Christmas several times for my hubby during the holidays.  I first saw this tea bread on the 4th season of The British Baking Contest (on PBS) and knew one day I'd have to bake it.

Bara Brith

1 1/3 cups (300g) strong tea
1 1/2 cups (6oz) raisins/sultanas
1 1/4 cups (6oz) currants
1 cup + 1T firmly packed light brown sugar (8oz of muscovado sugar)

Measure the fruit and sugar in a bowl and pour the tea over it.  Allow to set, covered, overnight on the counter.

Preheat oven to 300F-degrees (150C-degrees/Fan or 130C-degrees/gas).  Grease a 2 lb. loaf pan (5" x 10" x 3 1/2" high) and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2 1/2 cups (10oz) King Arthur Self-rising flour
1 large egg

Stir the flour and egg into the fruit mixture until fully incorporated.

Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 80 - 90 minutes.  Testing with a wooden skewer in the center should come out cleanly.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before lifting it out of the pan onto a parchment-lined rack.  Serve slathered with butter, of course. I love sharing recipes that come from other cultures; it's a way to learn so much about the people.  I'm proud to be a mixture and think the recipes my ancestors shared has made me understand traditions that were dear to them.  Enjoy!

November's apron winner is Mary Bolton!  Please email me your address so I can send this lovely apron out to you ASAP!  

I hope to have December's apron up shortly, however since my hubby had hip replacement surgery my days are 24/7 with chores and helping him through rehab.  It's all worth it, but I'm going to need a much needed vacation when he's back on his feet!  Happy Holidays to All!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Grandma Pizza

Not actually my Grandma, but rather created in the 1970s by Umberto Corteo at Umberto's Pizzeria on Long Island in honor of his mother's version, but it's become our family's favorite for a delicious alternative to the usual pizza.  The number one thing I like about this pizza is that it goes together so quickly and with just a tossed salad, dinner is complete.

I know tonight, homes all over the country will be ordering pizza, but I didn't feel like being around crowds or in traffic.  If you're the same way, try this recipe...I know you'll love it.

Grandma Pizza
3 T olive oil
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp. instand or rapid rise yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp salt

For the dough, coat a rimmed baking sheet with 2 T olive oil and set aside.  Combine water and remaining 1 T olive oil in a 1 cup measuring cup.  Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt and mix on low until combined.  With the mixer running, add the water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium low and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to the oiled baking sheet and turn to coat.  Use your hands to stretch the dough to a 10" x 6" rectangle.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Once it's risen, it will be very easy to stretch the dough to the full length and width of the baking sheet.

Once stretched, allow to rise once more, about 45 minutes.

For the Topping:
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 T olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
8 ounces of mozzarella, shredded, about 2 cups
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. chopped fresh basil (in season) or 1 tsp. dried

Drain the tomatoes in a colander.  In a bowl, add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients, except for the fresh Basil (if using dried, you can add now).
Preheat oven to 500F-degrees.  Sprinkle shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese over the dough, leaving about 1/2-inch margin around.  Top with the tomato mixture and bake until well-browned and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Slide pizza to a wood board and cool 5 minutes.  Serve with a tossed salad or use this as an accompany to your favorite pasta dish.  Enjoy!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and once more, I take an account of all my blessings.  I think this will always be one of my favorite holidays because I was in the kitchen with my mom.  Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Almond Pastry Pillows

I love working with cream cheese dough; I make Rugelach, Pecan Tassies, and now these little Pillows!  The dough comes out flaky and the surprise inside is a nice treat with a cup of tea (or coffee) on these cold days.  We've gone from 76F-degrees to only in the 50s today--I know that's not freezing compared to the snow that Minnesota or Michigan got yesterday, but it is chilly here:-)

I'm in the early stages of planning my cookie boxes for Christmas.  I loved baking cookies with my Mom, who made dozens of cookies to set out for her Christmas Eve buffet, but also to give to friends.  You can freeze a lot of doughs and even some cookies and get a head start--I do.

Almond Pastry Pillows
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 8-oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, cut up and softened
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together thoroughly until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed, with a rubber spatula.  Add the flour and salt and mix on low just until combined.  Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

1 7-oz pkg. Almond Paste
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg white
Break up the Almond Paste into a bowl and add the sugar.  Beat with a hand mixer until combined, then add the egg white and beat until smooth.
Preheat oven to 375F-degrees (360F-degrees Convection) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Take out one of the doughs.  Lightly flour your surface with flour and roll the dough to a 8" x 14" rectangle.
Use a 2-inch square cookie cutter to cut the dough.  Place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush with 1 large egg + 1T water.  Add about 1/2 tsp. of filling in the center and place another square on top.  Lightly press the edges with the tines of a fork.

Brush the tops, lightly with more of the egg wash and sprinkle a few sliced almonds and Sparkling Sugar on top.  Bake in the preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before packaging them. Makes about 30 cookies. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hokkaido~Japanese Sandwich Bread

Also known as Japanese Milk Bread, has a soft buttery texture like Brioche, but with a crunchy crust. If you love a really good sandwich bread...this is the one is for you.  There are several recipes for this bread, but I've chosen to use a Tangzhong, which is similar to a roux and added to the dough.  The key though, for a beautiful rise, is doing three (3) rises instead of two (2).  The bread comes up over the pan and you have the most beautiful dome.

HOKKAIDO (Japanese Sandwich Bread)
*Makes 1 loaf of bread--I actually tripled this recipe to make three loaves of bread.
3 T whole milk
3 T water
2 T King Arthur all-purpose flour

In a small sauce pan, over low heat, measure the wet ingredients and add to the pan.  Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk and cook over low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.

3 1/2 cups King Arthur Bread Flour (*it's important to use bread flour and not all-purpose because of the higher content of protein)
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 cup warm milk
1 large egg
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 T Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
1/4 cup warm water (no more than 110F-degrees)

In a stand mixer, using a dough hook, measure the flour and salt and mix to combine.  Add the proofed yeast mixture, Tangzhong, egg and milk and start on low speed until the flour is incorporated.  If the dough seems too touch, add a bit more water, one tablespoon at a time.  Finally, while the mixer is running, add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured bread board and knead until smooth.  Place in a buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap for Rise #1.

Place covered bowl in a warm area--I have a warming drawer, but when I've made bread in someone else's kitchen, we placed it by the heater!  The first rise will take 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and turn it over.  Wrap with plastic wrap and about to rise once again, about 30-40 minutes--Rise #2.

When the dough has doubled once more, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 9" x 9" square.  Start rolling the dough from the side closer to you, sealing the roll by pressing your fingertips on it to the dough.  This helps with eliminating air pockets.  When you rolled it completely, pinch the seam closed and tuck under the ends to fit a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for the last time (Rise #3).  The dough should come up over the pan about 2 inches before baking.  This rise will take about 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425F-degrees.  Place loaf (loaves) into the oven, spray the surface of the bread and the oven with water.  Set the timer for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375F-degrees and bake another 25 minutes.
The crust is brown and if you check the internal temperature with a thermometer, it should read 190F-degrees.  Allow to cool a few minutes, then turn out onto a bread board to cool completely before slicing.
Kitchen smelled wonderful and hubby was drooling waiting for dinner.  This is a recipe worth trying and your family will certainly thank you.  Enjoy!