May 29, 2012

Sour Cream Rolls

I had always thought that making bread from scratch would be a laborious and demanding task. I could not have been more wrong, and because of that have been missing out on fresh homemade bread. It’s not difficult, it’s not filled with mystical ingredients, it’s not like anything you buy at the store, and YOU can do it too!

I had some sour cream that I wanted to use before it went bad, which is as good an excuse as any to bake up a tasty treat. To me, this isn’t just any ol’ sour cream. I have fallen in love with Russian style sour cream and its creamier, fab flavor. So I scoured the interwebs to see what looked inspiring. I could have made pound cake or coffee cake, but sour cream rolls were calling my name.

The rolls bronzed beautifully while the inside remained tender and fluffy. Even day old these rolls tasted good as they were turned into mini sandwiches eaten with a bowl of soup.

Sour Cream Rolls
2-1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 t salt
1 C sour cream, room temperature
1/4 C warm water (100-110º)
2 T butter
1 egg

Line a 9-inch round pan or an 8-inch x 8-inch square pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together sugar, yeast, and water and let stand for 5-10 minutes, until foamy.

Add 1/2 C of flour and the salt to the yeast mixture. With the dough hook, knead the dough until the flour is incorporated. Mix in the sour cream, egg, and butter. Add the remaining 2 C of flour and knead for 5 minutes, until dough is smooth.

Put a T of olive oil in a bowl. Gather up the dough and place in the bowl, turning the dough over to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Punch the dough down and then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces, shaping each piece into a ball. Place each ball in the prepared pan. Cover with a towel and let rise, about 30 minutes. Heat oven to 375º F.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.

May 24, 2012

Summertime Cake Pops

With summer right around the corner I thought it only fitting to make some treats that scream, “bring on the heat”! I was fortunate to have the help of a longtime girlfriend, H, and her niece K, when it came time to decorate. With our theme decided, we made watermelon, ice cream, and mojito cake pops.

The watermelons were made from strawberry cake with mini chocolate chips for the seeds, and a strawberry buttercream. As decorating got underway, we decided to improvise a bit with the watermelons and so the resemblance was only in spirit. They were dipped in green and then drizzled with white.

For the mojitos I made a mint cake and then used a lime buttercream to hold it all together. These were dipped in white and then sprinkled with sugared lime zest. These were my fave and even the man, who was suspect about cake pops, liked them as well.

The ice creams were formed from mint chocolate chip cake balls dipped in pink, topped with sprinkles and then placed on a sugar cone. A couple of the cones were temperamental and so turned into extremely cute versions of dropped ice cream cones.

We had a great time decorating the pops, but honestly, I will not make them again. I sent H home with my leftover supplies so they don't go to waste. The end results were absolutely darling, but the time and supplies needed to get there was a bit excessive for me. As H pointed out, one time saver is to use boxed cake mix and canned frosting. I highly recommend that you grab a friend or two when you undertake this, it will be much more enjoyable. And maybe also some wine.

Simple Buttercream Frosting
2 C confectioners sugar
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temp
1 t vanilla
2 T milk

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and milk and mix until well combined. Depending on what you are using the frosting for, adjust the thickness by adding more milk or sugar.

May 22, 2012

Blackberry Mojito Cake

There aren’t many cocktails that I enjoy, but a good mojito is on that list. Since the combination of flavors is so appealing to me, I wondered if it would translate well into a cake. The original plan was to make petit fours with mint cake, frosting accented with lime, and for my fruit layer I decided on blackberry curd. As I worked my way through making all of the various components I opted out of making the petit fours but I hope to revisit them in the future.

Since I needed some of the cake for a project the next day, I wound up with a four layer cake about 4-inches x 8-inches. I spread blackberry curd between each layer and then topped the cake with royal icing flavored with lime juice. The final detail was sugared lime zest sprinkled on top.

The man and I both enjoyed the cake, though next time I’ll reduce the mint flavor just a bit. The texture of the cake was perfect for the thin layers and didn’t crumble when I sliced it for serving. I tried royal icing for the first time on cake because I felt that it would do well with being flavored, and it did. In the past I had only used royal icing for sugar cookies, but I liked it more than the seven-minute frostings and it was a snap to make.

There was some cake batter that wouldn’t fit in the pan and so I wound up with a few plain mojito mini cupcakes as well.

Mint Cake
1-1/2 C all-purpose flour, minus 1 T
1 T corn starch
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 C sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 C whole milk, room temperature
1 t vanilla
1 t peppermint extract or scant 1/4 t peppermint candy flavoring

Heat oven to 350º F. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and then line with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix on medium until well combined.

Add half of the flour mixture followed by the milk and extracts, and then the remainder of the flour mixture, mixing on medium-low after each addition, just until combined.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until lightly golden and center is set. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Royal Icing
2 C confectioners sugar
1-1/2 T meringue powder
4 T warm water
juice from 1 lime

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat all of the ingredients together until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Add more water or sugar depending on the consistency you want.

Visit Recipe Sprout on Google+ or facebook to download our blackberry mojito cocktail recipe that inspired this goodness!

May 18, 2012

Uncomplicated Quiche

As usual, while eating, the conversation so often turns to food. It came up that the man had never tried quiche, and since I’m a fan, I decided that he should try it. One of the great things about quiche is that it can be filled with everyday items you have on hand or to give new life to leftovers. You can be as simple or experimental as you like, and will no doubt have an enjoyable meal that serves many. Since I knew I was going to be making a quiche, I made some flaky pie dough the day before so it had plenty of time to rest before I rolled it out.

I was very pleased with how it all turned out, considering I suffered a brief panic attack when I thought the egg mixture was going to leak through the crust. Such was not the case and each slice popped smoothly out of the dish when it came time to serve. As much as I love eggs, I was thankful that you could taste all of the ingredients and it was not just an egg pie.

The pie dish I used is 2 inches deep - if you use a shallower dish, use only 4 eggs and 1-1/2 C of filling. For the filling try any combination of ham, bacon, sausage, broccoli, mushroom, spinach, artichoke hearts, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or fresh tomato slices. For the cheese, try Gruyère, Swiss, cheddar, mozzarella, feta, or Havarti.

single 9-inch pie shell
5 eggs
1 C half and half
1/3 C mayonnaise
2 T flour
1/4 C onion, finely chopped
1/4 t pepper
1/8 t salt
8 oz shredded cheese
2 C additional filling

Line 9-inch pie dish with pie shell and blind bake per recipe instructions. Remove from oven and set aside. Set oven temperature to 350º F.

While crust is being blind baked, cook any uncooked filling items to taste. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, mayonnaise, and flour. Gently fold cheese into egg mixture and set aside. Drain any remaining liquid from cooked filling then place filling into the pie dish. Pour egg mixture on top of filling. Bake for 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out cleanly.

Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

May 14, 2012

Baked's Lemon Lemon Loaf

I’ve had the pleasure of having made a few dozen of these cakes. As soon as I took my first bite, it was immediately on my list of faves. As long as you are considerate to not overmix the batter, you will be rewarded with a cake that is moist and dense, zinging with lemon flavor. A cake to be enjoyed any time of day, paired with a steaming cup of coffee or tea. The crust surrounding the cake is sweet and crisp, which I love, like the corner pieces of brownies. You can omit the lemon syrup and the lemon glaze, but I’ve had it without and it’s just not the same cake anymore.

I have always made this in a stand mixer, though Baked's method is to use a food processor. Also, I have made these cakes in varying quantities and the quality has never suffered so make one, two, three, or however many you need! Baked says a soaked but unglazed loaf can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 weeks. If you don't have cake flour on hand, don't fret, use 1 C and 1 T of all-purpose flour sifted together with 3 T of corn starch.

adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Lemon Loaf (one 9-inch x 5-inch x 3-inch loaf)
3/4 C cake flour
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/8 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1-1/8 C sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
zest from 2 lemons
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 C sour cream, room temperature
1 t vanilla

Lemon Syrup
3 T fresh lemon juice
3 T sugar

Lemon Glaze
1/2 C confectioners sugar
2 T fresh lemon juice

Make the Lemon Loaf
Heat the oven to 350º F. Spray the inside of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray, line the bottom with parchment paper, and spray the paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer,  combine the sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add the butter, sour cream, and vanilla and mix until combined.
Remove the mixer from the stand and add the flour mixture, one third at a time, folding gently after each addition until just combined. It is ok to have clumps and streaks of flour, do not overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the pan, then reduce the oven temperature to 325º F, and bake for another 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn out on wire rack. If using the syrup and the glaze, place something under the rack to catch any dribbles.

Make the Lemon Syrup
In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice.
Using a cake tester, poke holes throughout the top of the loaf, going all the way to the bottom. Brush the top of the loaf evenly and equally with the syrup. Let the loaf cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Make the Lemon Glaze
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar and lemon juice. If you would like it thinner or thicker, adjust the sugar and juice accordingly. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of the loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze set before serving, about 15 minutes.

May 10, 2012

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

I recently learned about stuffed cabbage and all its goodness and I wish someone had clued me in earlier. I really, really enjoy this dish. It takes a little bit of time to get it all together, but after making this dish a few times it has become much easier and only takes about 30 minutes to put together. Once everything is assembled, it just simmers in a dutch oven for three hours, filling the house with mouth-watering smells.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
1 large cabbage
1 lb ground beef
1 C cooked rice
2 T minced onion
1 T paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) sauerkraut
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 C water

Carefully remove the core of the cabbage with a paring knife. In a large saucepan filled two-thirds of the way with water, place the cabbage inside and bring to a boil until the outer leaves begin to loosen. Take the cabbage out of the water, remove any softened leaves, and return the cabbage to water. Repeat this process until all of the leaves are removed.

While the cabbage is boiling, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, rice, minced onion, paprika, and salt and pepper. Mix together until evenly combined and then gather a small handful of the meat mixture and shape into a roll. Continue until all of the mixture has been shaped.

Cover the bottom of a dutch oven with half of the sauerkraut and set aside.

Take the largest of the softened leaves and one at a time, remove the center stalk from the leaf, place a roll of meat inside, and tightly wrap with the cabbage leaf. Place each roll, seam side down in the dutch oven on the sauerkraut. After all of the rolls have been made, you can chop the remaining cabbage leaves and spread on top of the rolls.

In the bowl that had the meat mixture, stir tomato sauce, water, and remaining sauerkraut together and then pour over the cabbage rolls.

Place the dutch oven on the stove over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for three hours. Check on rolls after 2 hours in the event that the water has evaporated. If so, add 1/2 C water so that rolls do not burn or stick.

Makes 9-12 rolls

May 8, 2012

Coconut Cream Pie

I am sure you can relate to the times when you're eating, and even though you’ve begun to feel full, you cannot stop yourself from just one more bite. And then maybe one more. That is what happened to me the last time I had coconut cream pie. My sister and I had taken our folks to dinner and we ladies capped off the meal by sharing an oh so creamy, melt in your mouth, slice of coconut cream pie.

May 7th may be Coconut Cream Pie day, but this dessert can be enjoyed any time of the year! My only note is to be careful not to let the custard heat so much that it overcooks. If you are worried about that, cook on top of a double boiler. It may take longer, but could spare you unnecessary stress. The pie is not very sweet and so pairs perfectly with sweetened whipped cream. As usual, I didn’t wait very long once it was completed to dig in. That may or may not be why there is only one pie in the picture…

Coconut Cream Pie
single disc of flaky pie dough
1/3 C sugar
1/8 t salt
1/4 C corn starch
4 egg yolks
2 C half and half, divided
4 T unsalted butter, room temp
1 t vanilla
1-1/2 C sweetened, flaked coconut
additional 1/4 C sweetened, flaked coconut, toasted for sprinkling if desired
sweetened whipped cream

This will make enough for one 9-inch pie or four 5-inch mini pies. (I cut the recipe in half and made two 5-inch pies.)

Roll out and blind bake pie dough as per recipe method and then set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm 1-1/2 C of the half and half.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, corn starch. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 C of the half and half with the egg yolks. Pour the egg mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until well combined.

Remove saucepan of half and half from the stove. While whisking the egg and sugar mixture, slowly stream the heated half and half to temper the mixture. Once tempered, return everything to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Stir the mixture occasionally and cook until thickened, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla, and coconut. To avoid forming a skin, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Once your custard has cooled, spread the filling into the pie shell. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut prior to serving.

Sweetened whipped cream: whip 2 C heavy whipping cream just until it begins to firm. Add 1/4 C confectioners sugar and 1/2 t vanilla and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Toasted coconut: Place 1/4 C coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times to evenly toast. You can do this while your pie shell is blind baking.

May 4, 2012

Fruit Curds

I have been making fruit curds on a regular basis for the past few years and still find the sweet fruit aroma coming out of the saucepan intoxicating. I’ve made citrus varieties, mango, strawberry, and this time, blackberry. Based on the research I did prior to making blackberry curd, I found that my recipes and method are not the norm. There is no butter or double boiler involved and the fruit to sugar ratio is equal or less.

I am continuously finding that the method can vary greatly and yet yield the same result. It can be confusing and intimidating, or liberating and exciting to be faced with so many options of how to prepare something. One of the reasons that I love baking so much is the structure. Baking is precise, the methods tend to be more strict, and while I enjoy conjuring up new treats, I am definitely within my comfort zone. Cooking to me is based more on instinct, being able to throw flavors and ingredients together takes a certain creativity, which in that respect I do not have.

Feel free to try out one of these fruit curds as they are, or mix it up and make some changes to better suit your taste. As I am finding, there is no wrong way as long as it tastes good and works for your needs! My blackberry curd is going to be used in a baked good that I hope lives up to the hype in my head. I’ll post about it in all its glory or misery, stay tuned...

Blackberry Curd
12 oz blackberries
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t vanilla

In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, combine blackberries and sugar. Stirring occasionally, cook for 10-15 minutes, until berries have softened and broken down.

Place a strainer over a small bowl and pour berry mixture into strainer. Using a rubber spatula or a ladle, push the fruit juice into the bowl and discard the seeds and pulp. Whisk the eggs into the juice and return entire mixture to saucepan.

Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the curd thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Curd will thicken further once completely cooled.

Makes about 1-1/4 C

Lemon Curd
1 C strained, fresh lemon juice (5-6 lemons)
1 C sugar
4 eggs
2 T lemon zest
1-1/2 t vanilla

To make lime curd, use 1 C lime juice, about 10 limes. To make orange curd, use 1 C orange juice, about 3-4 oranges.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine lemon juice and sugar. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Slowly stream some of the hot lemon-sugar syrup into the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Add the egg mixture to the saucepan.

Cook over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the curd thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, and if necessary, pour curd through a strainer to remove any cooked egg or lumps. Stir in vanilla and zest. Curd will thicken further once completely cool.

Makes about 2 C

May 1, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

In an attempt to develop better eating habits, the man and I have been incorporating more vegetables in our meals. Since we like pizza and we like cauliflower, we figured we’d probably like cauliflower pizza crust. We were right, but not enough to make it again.

For something that tasted just ok, for us it is not worth the two hours (yes, two hours) it took to be able to sit down and eat. I’m certain that if I made this again in the near future, it might not take quite that long, but I’d rather find something even tastier to use cauliflower.

I made two pizzas and baked them in slightly different ways. One was placed on a lightly sprayed pizza pan and one was placed in a shallow 9-inch glass pie dish. The one on the pan stuck horribly even though I had sprayed it beforehand. It was thinner and got very crispy on the edges due to the cheese incorporated in the crust. The crust in the glass pan was slightly thicker and held up very well upon serving and eating, though was a little bit soggy. My advice for baking would be to use a metal pan but line with parchment paper instead of using non-stick spray. That way you should get a crispy crust that doesn’t stick or tear.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

1 head of cauliflower, (4 C grated by hand or with a food processor)
2 eggs
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1 t Italian seasoning (the sauce I used was so zesty, the use of seasoning in the crust was lost)
sauce, cheese, veggies and/or precooked meats to taste

The above recipe will make two 9-inch pizzas.

Heat the oven to 450º F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the leaves and stem from the head of cauliflower. Chop into large florets and clean well. Drain any excess water and then grate or process the cauliflower. Place the cauliflower crumbles in a microwave safe bowl and cook for 5-8 minutes, depending on the wattage of your microwave. The cauliflower reduces when cooked and so you will have about 2 C. Let cool slightly and then mix together with the eggs and cheese to form your dough.

Place half of the mixture on each pan and shape into a 9-inch circle. Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and change the oven setting to broil at 500º F.

Spread sauce on the crusts and top with cheese and any toppings of your choice. Heat under broiler for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Let stand for a few minutes, then cut and serve!