Friday, October 29, 2010

FFwD: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

The final FFwD recipe for the month of October was Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, an easy-to-make cake loaded with apple chunks.

I chose four different kinds of apples for this cake: Fuji, Gala, Braeburn, and Granny Smith.

Basically, you whisk together a simple batter of flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and melted butter. While the recipe calls for rum, I substituted Amaretto. When the batter is prepared, you fold in the chunks of the apples you selected and pour it into an 8-inch springform pan.

Bake for about an hour, cool,

then slice.

I know for sure that this cake won't last long. Because it is so easy to make, it's also a great dessert for parties and get-togethers.

Head over to French Fridays with Dorie to see how the other bakers fared. All of the recipes for our inaugural month were delicious and fun to make. Perhaps Dorie would be willing to choose our selections more often!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BB: Mutant Popovers and Soup

For the last Barefoot Blogger recipe for October, we tackled popovers, always an exciting thing to watch bake, like pita bread.

This time I used custard cups for the baking vessel instead of the usual cupcake/muffin tin. As I watched them bake (through the glass viewing screen), I was fascinated by the lop-sideness of them. How does that happen?

Guess I'll have to make them again. I made just a third of the recipe since there are only two of us, and four seemed to be the right amount. They are quick to make, so I'll be re-making them soon. The recipe can be found either in the Parties! cookbook, or on the website.

For lunch today, I made Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curry Condiments. This soup looked and sounded so delicious that I wanted to give it a try.

I halved the soup recipe. First, I roasted one butternut squash, one apple, and one onion.

When the vegetables were very soft, I poured them into the food processor and pureed them with some chicken stock.

I put the puree in a saucepan, added some curry powder, salt, pepper, and more chicken stock to thin out the soup.

The toppings were toasted unsweetened coconut, sliced scallions, chopped cashews, and some chopped banana. This was a terrific combination of flavors.

The soup recipe can be found in the Back to Basics cookbook and probably online.

In November, we started using Ina's latest cookbook, How Easy Is That? I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Doughnuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann, and Epicurious.

There were quite a few choices this month.

We could make yeast doughnuts, buttermilk cake doughnuts, pumpkin doughnuts, and bombolini, which are stuffed balls of fried goodness.

I happen to love maple bars, so that is what I made.

I added some vanilla to the basic yeast dough recipe, then added a maple glaze. Some doughnuts were topped with bacon (as a tribute to Voodoo Doughnuts).

I've been making doughnuts for many years. I always use my handy electric skillet, so I can easily monitor the temperature of the oil.

The resulting doughnuts were pretty close to the flavors I love. They actually tasted slightly better the next day and disappeared quickly after that.

Stop by the Daring Kitchen to find the recipes and see all the doughnuts that the Daring Bakers made.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TWD: All-American All-Apple Pie

Pies are some of my favorite desserts. Nearly any flavor will do.

This week, Emily, of Sandmuffin, chose Dorie's All-American All-Apple Pie, a most excellent choice.

I used a combination of Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Pink Lady apples. Mixed with spices, instant tapioca, lemon zest, and butter, they were fabulously delicious.

Normally, when I make apple pie, I saute the apples beforehand for two reasons: 1. I can use a whole lot more apples because they shrink ahead of time; and 2. the finished pie doesn't have this huge cavern of empty space above the apples. It is completely full of apples.

No matter how it's cooked, though, this pie is absolutely wonderful. If you can make it last a second day, the filling just melds together beautifully and tastes even better than on the first day.

There is one piece left. When I finish writing, I will settle down and enjoy every last crumb. Stop by Emily's blog for the recipe, so you can partake of this pie's apple-y goodness.

To see how the other bakers like this pie, head over to the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

Friday, October 22, 2010

FFwD: Hachis Parmentier

One picture is definitely worth a thousand words. Does this photo give you a clue about our feelings for this week's FFwD recipe, Hachis Parmentier (or Shepherd's Pie)?

We did have a choice in the preparation between boiling pieces of beef and creating our own beef broth, or choosing a less complicated version that uses ground beef. Since I have a freezer full of ground beef, I chose the more simple route. The results, however, were not simple at all.

I sauteed the ground beef and sausage together, and when they were nearly all browned, I threw in some minced garlic and thyme along with the tomato paste and some beef broth. I seasoned the meats as they were cooking. (My sausage was sweet Italian sausage from Trader Joe's, easy to remove from the casing and crumble.)

The mashed potatoes were made as I always make them, hand-mashed with cream and butter.

I used a 9" pie plate for the cooking vessel, placing the meat layer on the bottom, followed by the mashed potato layer. I used a generous grating of Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses with dots of butter to top it off.

The end result was superb.

It was a good thing that I only made half a recipe, because the two of us polished it off in record time. Had I made a full recipe, we would have done the same. Clearly, it disappeared before the camera could record any servings. It was that good.

This is definitely one recipe that will become a regular around here. For more opinions, stop by the French Fridays with Dorie website.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TWD: Caramel Pumpkin Pie

I must confess that I am a pumpkin pie snob. The only pumpkin pie I really, really enjoy is my own.

When I was growing up, my father made the pies in the family. His specialty was pumpkin pie, and his were dark and spicy.

No one that I know of makes a dark and spicy pumpkin pie. Most pies are too squashy, too pale, too bland. Not mine. Mine are like my dad's.

Typically, I make my pumpkin pie on Halloween. When I bake it this year, I will post the recipe so you can compare.

This week we were tasked to make Dorie's Caramel Pumpkin Pie. The other bakers were raving about it, so I was hopeful that I could add another pie to my repertoire.

The main difference with this pie is that you caramelize sugar until it is dark amber and add that to the pumpkin filling.

Along with some spices and a splash of rum, It makes for a darker pie. However, there is also a touch of bitterness that is not particularly pleasant. I had two other taste testers this time, and they both agreed with that diagnosis.

As good as this pie is, it will not be replacing my favorite recipe.

I might just give this pie another try, except that I will only caramelize the sugar until it is a light to medium amber and leave out the rum, or at least reduce the quantity since it was bit overpowering.

This week's Caramel Pumpkin Pie was chosen by Janell of
Mortensen Family Memoirs. You can find the recipe on Janell's blog, after which you can stop by the Tuesdays with Dorie website and read about the other bakers' reactions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

World Bread Day: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Year ago, when I was in high school, we were required to take one year of Home Economics. That was back when they actually taught useful things.

I took the sewing/child care semester part during summer school. In the fall, I took the cooking semester.

It changed my life.

I had always been interested in cooking and had dreamed of opening a restaurant, but my Home Ec teacher introduced me to knowledge and skills that I'd never experienced.

For example, she taught us all how to make bread -- quick breads and yeast breads. To this day, I still use the recipes she gave us. They are that good and reliable.

My first yeast bread was called Basic Sweet Yeast Dough.

At some point, I transferred the recipe from my notebook to a note card. Some years later, the card was 'decorated' by one of my children, probably my oldest daughter, since she was an artistic little child.

This sweet yeast dough has a lovely, satiny feel after it has been kneaded for 10 to 15 minutes. While I've made different shaped rolls from it, I always return to the original crescent shapes.

This time, I made one batch of plain, buttery crescents, and another with cinnamon sugar on the insides. I think some Parmesan would work nicely, as well.

When I read the instructions, I realize how incomplete they are. But since I've made this recipe so many times and other kinds of bread so many times, I know how to read between the lines.

Every time I make bread, I think of my former teacher and wish I could tell her what a difference she made in my life. I'd like to think she would be pleased.

Here's the recipe as written. I used to make this dough entirely by hand. While I use my mixer now, I still knead the bread manually.

Basic Sweet Yeast Dough

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons powdered milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening (or oil or butter)
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 cup flour

Put the yeast in the 1/4 cup warm water to dissolve.

Put the 1/2 cup warm water, milk, sugar, salt and shortening in a mixing bowl.

Add 1 cup flour and stir into a pasty dough.

Add egg and yeast and beat well to mix the dough. Add one more cup of flour, and mix thoroughly.

Put 1/4 cup flour on a board. Pour out the dough, cover with a bit more flour, and knead. (The dough will be very soft and somewhat sticky.) After kneading for 10-15 minutes, place in a greased bowl, cover, and set the bowl in a warm, dark place until the dough has doubled.

Deflate the dough; pour onto a floured board, and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Divide into two parts, and shape each part into rolls. Let rise again. Brush with melted butter. (For the crescent rolls, roll into a 12" circle, brush with melted butter, then cut into twelfths, rolling each piece from the wide end to the point.)

Bake for about 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees F, or until golden brown.

Makes 2 dozen rolls.

In honor of World Bread Day, October 16, 2010, I am sending my crescent rolls over to Zorra, who is hosting this event for the fifth straight year.

Stop by Zorra's website later this month to see all the wonderful breads that were submitted.

FFwD: Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

Soups are some of my favorite foods. I fix them all year round. They can be cold or hot, sweet or savory. You just can't go wrong with soup.

For the third recipe in this new group, we were to make Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup.

It had potential, and it did turn out to be quite delicious, with a lovely spicy undertone from the star anise, coriander seed, pepper corns, and dried red chilies. Pour in some homemade chicken stock and some coconut milk and you're all set.

I'm not a fan of fish sauce, but I didn't eliminate it entirely. A few drops were enough. It melded into the other flavors, so all was well.

The soup was even better the next day.

Stop by French Fridays with Dorie to see all the soup versions and find out what's on the recipe list for November.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

BB: East Hampton Clam Chowder

Here's another Barefoot Contessa hit. Clam chowder.

Or, my version, tuna chowder.

It was thick and rich and delicious. Definitely something I will make again.

The recipe can be found in the Family Style cookbook. I substituted chicken broth and albacore tuna for the clam juice and clams, and either way it's a delicious chowder.

Beginning in November we will be cooking from Ina's newest book, How Easy Is That?

Laura from Family Spice chose the first October recipe. The final one, at the end of the month, will be popovers. Then, it's on to new territory.

Daring Cooks: Stuffed Chard Leaves

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

I've been waiting for awhile for an excuse to try stuffing chard leaves. With October's Daring Cooks challenge, the time had come.

For my filling, I combined uncooked rice, some garbanzo beans (slightly mashed), toasted almond slivers, diced dried apricots, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, paprika, salt, and pepper. (As I recall.)

Then, I stuffed the blanched chard leaves and placed them in the pan along with some water and a splash or two of red wine.

The results were delicious, and turned out to be good either hot or cold.

Thanks to Lori for an inspiring challenge. Other Daring Cooks actually used grape leaves, and few stuffed cabbage leaves, so be sure and stop by the Daring Kitchen to see the results. If you want the recipes, go over to Lori's blog.