Archive | February, 2013

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

25 Feb

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I’m going to confess something: I have a really bad habit of buying really nice loaves of fresh-baked bread with all the good intentions of making delicious sandwiches and then totally forgetting about them. This past weekend, my guy Stephen was pretty bummed when he went searching for bread and found a dry, week-old slab that just wasn’t cutting it as sandwich material. It seemed like a total loss until I found some chocolate chips lying around and decided that making bread pudding was the perfect apology and fix for such a sad situation. I grabbed a serrated knife and got to work. A little while later, I had a much happier companion and no stale bread!

Not only is this recipe great for using up older bread (fresh bread is perfectly okay too!), the add-ins and even the type of bread can be different every time. For example, chocolate brioche with dried cranberries makes an amazing wintry treat, or you can use sourdough and add nuts. If you really want to go out on a limb, cut the sugar amount in half to make a savory bread pudding; sausage and fennel with a cheddar cheese topping is my favorite. The options are unlimited.

For this recipe, the temperature is set to 325 degrees, but I prefer to aim lower at 300. It’ll take a little longer, but it will ensure that your eggs don’t overcook and nothing burns. You will also have to use a water bath, but don’t worry; find a baking dish that the bread pudding will sit comfortably in, set it in the oven and pour water to fill the pan, only halfway up. When it’s time to take it out, use oven mitts to extract only the pan with the bread pudding in it. Leave the water bath in the oven until it cools and can be safely taken out without burning yourself. Also, the timing on this has a little wiggle room since the bread needs about 15 minutes to really soak up the custard mixture.

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of cubed bread (I like using challah for this recipe because it’s a rich bread)
3 eggs
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of milk
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup chocolate chips

Combine all wet ingredients and spices and whisk together well until it is a smooth mixture. Put bread in 6-8 inch pan and pour egg mixture over bread. Sprinkle chocolate chips and put in a 300 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm!

Raspberry Linzer Cookies Recipe

22 Feb

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When I was invited to my friend Jayson’s dinner party, I went in search of the perfect cookie recipe to bring for dessert. I had just moved into my new place and only had one baking sheet, my KitchenAid mixer and a rolling pin unpacked.

I remembered a cookie that my college friends and I used to make when we were obsessed with British culture and insisted on having High Tea on the weekends. The Linzer Cookie. The crumbly, sandy cookie combined with the sweet jam was always a winner. We fought over them to the last crumb. They go perfectly with Earl Grey tea, and make wonderful take-home presents as well.

I love the playfulness of this cookie, because you can try using different cookie cutters to match the theme of your party. I like doing a classic heart cut-out top (pictured above) but you can also do fun shapes like teacups, crowns or mustaches. Never underestimate the power of a good cookie cutter!

Some tips I’d suggest: The prep time for this recipe is relatively quick since the jam can be store bought, but make sure the cookies are totally cooled down before adding jam, otherwise the jam will melt and make a huge mess! Also, make the dough a day ahead so it can rest in the refrigerator before you roll it. This gives it time to relax and prevents your shapes from warping when they bake.

So turn on the latest Downton Abbey episode and get baking.

Raspberry Linzer Cookies

2/3 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12-oz jar seedless raspberry jam

Directions:

Pulse toasted nuts and ½ of the brown sugar in a food processor until smooth.
Whisk together remaining dry ingredients in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine butter and remaining ½ of sugar until light and fluffy. Add nut mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Reduce mixer to low speed and add dry ingredients in two segments, mixing until just barely combined. Wrap and chill dough overnight. Roll out to about ⅛ of an inch and cut as desired. Bake at 350* for about 12 minutes, or until edges are barely golden. When cooled, pipe jam so that there is a margin between it and the edge of the cookie. Gently press on cookie tops, dust with powdered sugar and dig in!

Valentine’s Day Dessert – Chocolate Pavlova

13 Feb

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With Valentine’s Day comes the planning, sending (or receiving) flowers, buying candies, picking out overly-sentimental greeting cards, and of course assembling a killer outfit. It’s enough to make even the most sane person go a little crazy. But even after all of that is figured out, you still have a tiny problem: what can you possibly serve for dessert?

The solution is a chocolate pavlova. A delicious and quick treat, it’s bound to impress your date, your friends, and your taste buds. It’s simple, but will have even the most finicky foodie falling in love. This baked meringue boasts a hard shell with a chewy center that’s surprising and satisfying. I like to finish mine with a deliciously light orange mascapone cream and a sprinkling of candied pistachios.

Chocolate Pavlova with Orange Cream

Pavlova

8 1/2oz egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp vinegar
1tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cocoa
2oz 55% chocolate

Orange Cream

2 cups mascapone
1 orange juice & zest
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cream

Pavlova

Sift all dry ingredients (except cream of tartar) and set aside. Put whites in medium bowl/ mixer and set to medium speed. When lightly frothy, add cream of tartar. Slowly stream in sugar and whip until soft peaks form in the meringue. Stream in wet ingredients, mix until combined and remove from mixer. Gently fold in sifted dry ingredients. Spoon dollops (you can vary the size to your liking) on a siltpat or a sheetpan with parchment. Bake for about 7-9 minutes or until hard shell forms.

Cream

Lightly whip all ingredients together until cream is smooth & can hold it’s shape.

Garnish as desired and enjoy!

#Meatless Monday: White Bean Ragout

11 Feb

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I picked up a copy of Bon Appétit magazine in an airport many many months ago and hadn’t paid much attention to it since.  This past week I remembered a recipe I had seen in that magazine and spent the better part of the afternoon digging around my apartment trying to find the magazine so I could make this dish I suddenly had my heart set on.  Being a packrat paid off and I eventually found the magazine and the recipe.

A mixture of chopped onion and bell pepper slowly cooked in olive oil creates a soffritto-like mixture that makes the base of this amazing dish.  Seriously.  This dish will BLOW YOUR MIND.  It’s so good, so full of flavor and so very easy.  In the Bon Appétit article they served this over hunks of garlic toast.  I served mine over this funky pasta from the local organic grocery store along with garlic toast to bulk it up.  This dish is definitely worth making again and again AND worth saving all the leftovers for days two and three.  It’s one of the best dishes I’ve ever made and it just happens to be vegan!

White Bean Ragout from Bon Appétit

*Note:  If you have the article or go to the article please note, I roughly halved my recipe.  I also think this is a recipe you can kiiind of eyeball the quantities and it will be A-OK!

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb of cooked pasta of your choice (I used this funky stuff called rombi but fusilli or penne  would totally work)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (I used yellow onions)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, 3 finely grated and 1 halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus more
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 15 ounce can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Directions

Boil your pasta.  Pulse onions and pepper in food processor (or finely chop by hand) until finely chopped but not totally pureed.  Mix together in a bowl and set aside.  Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and pepper mixture, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 30 minutes (until vegetables are soft and cooked through).  Add finely grated garlic and tomato paste and stir until mixture turns deep red, about 3 minutes.

At this point the recipe says to take your soffritto mixture and divide it, setting one half aside and storing one half in the freezer for later use.  I didn’t do this.  I used ALL that sofrito and my dish turned out flavorful and awesome.  But if you want to conserve some of the mixture then go for it.  The whole point of this mixture is that with a few simple ingredients cooked down slowly the flavors are intensified so a little goes a long way.  I just happen to like flavor to the max in my dishes so I used it all.

At this point you need the mixture in the skillet and it’s time to add in the beans.  Cook soffritto and beans over medium heat, stirring often until cooked through, should take a minute or two.  Stir in one cup of broth and cup of white wine and bring to a boil.  Let simmer, stir and scrape up all the tasty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Add tomatoes and remaining cup of broth.  Simmer until tomatoes are tender, about 5 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with parsley and serve over pasta.  Or serve it over garlic toast.  Or serve it with both!  So many options!

#Meatless Monday: Root Vegetable Soup

4 Feb

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This could also be called Kitchen Sink Soup because I tossed just about everything in there but the sink.  There is nothing more heartwarming, and no better way to use up vegetables that are just nearly past their prime than a big pot of soup.  Homemade soup is also a super inexpensive way to make a large quantity of food for leftovers or the rest of your lunches for the week.  Pair this with some crusty bread or homemade biscuits and you will be good to go on those cold winter nights!  Also, this soup can be easily reinterpreted.  Add different vegetables that you like or take out the ones I used that don’t tickle your fancy.  You absolutely cannot go wrong.

Root Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 32 oz vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 turnips, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 medium, yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 handfuls kale, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Sauté onion, turnips and carrots in olive oil with a pinch or two of salt and a few turns of fresh ground pepper until just soft and slightly browned.  Add the garlic and sauté for two more minutes.  Transfer into a stock pot and add vegetable stock, water, tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils.  Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and let simmer until lentils are cooked (about 30 minutes).  Toss in kale and let wilt slightly.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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