June 29, 2012

Citrusy Carnitas

One of the great things about cooking is the variety that occurs due to a person's ingredient selection, method, cooking style, or perception of how a dish should taste. It makes cooking an expressive art form for the tummy and the recipe I created for carnitas is just one more example.

The pork went through two stages of cooking, both handled in a Dutch oven and cooked on the stove. The meat turned out incredibly tender and juicy and its flavor was not masked, but complemented by the seasonings and orange juice. I was concerned about it being greasy as it sometimes is at restaurants but that was not the case. Five of us dug into the carnitas served with avocado, red onion, cheese, and sour cream with refried beans and Mexican rice on the side.

Citrusy Carnitas
3 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3-inch chunks
Goya Adobo with pepper seasoning
1/2 medium onion
1 t minced garlic
1 C chicken broth
1-1/2 C orange juice

Sprinkle the chunks of meat with Adobo seasoning, rub the seasoning into the meat, and then set aside.

Cut the onion in large slices and place in a Dutch oven or other heavy pan with lid. Add the garlic and chicken broth. Lay the pieces of meat on top and then add enough water so that the meat is just covered.

Place pan on stove and bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours.

Remove the meat from the Dutch oven and discard any liquid that is remaining. (At this point I recommend discarding any large pieces of fat that have not cooked down.) Return the meat to Dutch oven and add orange juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 30 minutes or until all of the juice has evaporated. You can either remove and serve or let the meat caramelize and get crispy on the edges.

Makes enough for 6-8 hungry people

June 27, 2012

Raspberry Lemonade Battenberg Cake

I had seen The Daring Kitchen around the interwebs and have found that it is a vast community all centered around food. How great is that?! I eagerly jumped on board to become a participant of The Daring Bakers’ Challenges. At the beginning of each month the challenge is unveiled and then on the 27th, all participants show off their creation to the public. I had a lot of fun making June’s challenge and must admit that I felt some anxiety as well. The Daring Bakers have been around since 2006 and so being a newbie is a little intimidating.

For the June 2012 challenge, The Daring Kitchen said, “Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.”

From the allowable variations, I chose to make a raspberry lemonade battenberg cake which keeps the traditional coloring of these petite treats. I really enjoyed the flavor of the cake, the ground almonds provided a nice depth and texture. I thought that with the thick batter I would have dry cakes, but they were moist and kept more so with the raspberry jam that held it all together. My changes to Mary's recipe are noted below in brackets.

I’m excited to see what is in store for July and maybe I’ll give The Daring Cooks a try. Maybe.

Traditional Battenberg
3⁄4 C unsalted butter, softened & cut in cubes
3⁄4 C caster (super fine) sugar
1-1⁄4 C self-raising flour (or 1 C all-purpose flour, 1-1/2 t baking powder, and 1/4 t salt)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1⁄2 C ground almonds (can be substituted with ground rice)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
red food colouring, paste, liquid or gel (optional)[I omitted]
[1/4 C raspberry puree]
[zest from half a lemon]
[1 T lemon juice]

To finish
1/3 C apricot jam [1/3 C raspberry jam with 1 t fresh lemon juice added]
1 C marzipan, natural or yellow [white fondant]

Heat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter. Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment (or foil). [I didn’t have an 8-inch square metal baking pan and so used two 9-inch loaf pans that were sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and the bottoms lined with parchment. The cakes baked up well and it saved me from needing to concoct the divider.]

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth. [I used my trusty stand mixer to combine all of the ingredients.]

Spoon half the mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin. [Since I was flavoring both halves of the batter, I placed half of the batter in the bowl that had the dry ingredients and folded in the lemon zest and juice. I then placed the batter in the prepared pan and smoothed the top.]

Add a few drops of red food liquid/gel/paste to the remaining batter, stir until the colour is thoroughly distributed, add more colour if needed. Spoon the pink batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin. Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner. [I didn’t use any food coloring, only adding in the raspberry puree.]

Bake for 25-30 mins until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched, and a toothpick comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan). [I only needed to bake my cakes for 21 minutes.]

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.

Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a long serrated knife. Cut each coloured sponge in half lengthways so that you are left with four long strips of sponge. Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is as neat and even as possible.

Gently heat the apricot jam and pass through a small sieve. Brush warmed jam onto the strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern (one yellow next to one pink. On top of that, one pink next to one yellow).

Dust a large flat surface with icing sugar then roll the marzipan in an oblong shape that is wide enough to cover the length of the cake and long enough to completely wrap the cake. [Since I used fondant, I rolled it out per the instructions and then continued following Mary’s instructions.]

Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam. Place the cake on the marzipan, jam side down. Brush the remaining three sides with jam. Press the marzipan around the cake, making sure the join is either neatly in the one corner, or will be underneath the cake once turned over.

Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake and score the top of the cake with a knife, you can also crimp the top corners with your fingers to decorate. Neaten the ends of the cake and remove excess marzipan by trimming off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern.

June 22, 2012

Perfect Chocolate Cake

Mmmmm, chocolate cake. Apologies for the lengthy post, but it’s all about chocolate! A very moist, very chocolatey, lighter than air cake enrobed in fudgy chocolate ganache. It takes a little more ingredients than you might have on hand, but it is so worth it. Once you or anyone that you share with has eaten a slice, there will never be another chocolate cake recipe you’ll need to find. I didn’t develop this recipe myself, it came from Ina Garten, but I have made slight changes and have some tidbits to help you enjoy this deliciousness.

This cake works better as a 9-inch round, not 8-inch as originally written. I made a two-layer cake and even removed batter for three cupcakes and my layers were still about 1-1/2 inches tall. I find it easier to use measurements in grams, for accuracy and so that ingredients can go directly into the bowls. The scale is also a huge help when it comes to dividing the batter evenly between the two cake pans. This is a thin cake batter and as always, be careful not to overmix. Take into consideration that while you are separating the batter, you are still continuing to mix it.

It may be helpful to place the cooled cakes in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before removing them from the cooling racks. Since these cakes are so moist, this will firm them up for handling. The cakes will have stuck to the cooling racks and so use a plastic dough scraper or the back side of a knife to gently separate the cakes before picking them up.

Chocolate Cake
8 oz freshly brewed coffee
3/4 C (96 g) cocoa powder
1-3/4 C (224 g) all-purpose flour

2 C (402 g) sugar
2 t baking soda

1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 C (242 g) buttermilk, shaken

1/2 C (110 g) vegetable oil

2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray two 9-inch x 2-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Place the cocoa powder in a small bowl and pour in the hot coffee. Stir to combine thoroughly, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In small bowl, stir together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, stir with spatula, electric mixer, or a stand mixer, just until combined.

Add the coffee mixture and stir just until combined.

Pour the batter in even amounts into the prepared pans and bake for 17-19 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache
24 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 C heavy cream

Place the chocolate in large mixing bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream on medium-high until it almost comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until completely combined and glossy.

Place plastic film directly on top of the ganache to prevent a skin from forming while it cools. If using as a glaze, cool slightly before pouring over your cake. If you want to whip the ganache, place cooled ganache in a mixing bowl and use a whisk attachment and whip until it is light and fluffy. For piping or frosting, allow the ganache to completely cool and reach a spreadable consistency.

(For this post I used 12 oz of chocolate, 7 oz semi-sweet and 5 oz bittersweet, and 1 C cream to decorate the 2-layer cake and three cupcakes and there was still ganache left over.)

June 19, 2012

Deviled Eggs

Since deviled eggs are typically served at large gatherings, usually in the summer, it seems like so much time passes between enjoying them. That makes me sad.

The man and I had been talking about hard boiled eggs as a handy snack to have in the fridge, when he wondered if they could be shaped like a cube. A quick search on the interwebs showed us yes, they certainly can, along with many other shapes and the products that make it happen. Seeing how cute the Kotobuki egg molds were, I had to buy all three sets.

I hard boiled my eggs, then immediately (and carefully) removed the shells. As each eggshell was removed, I placed the egg in a mold and set it in a cold water bath. Ten minutes later I found they worked like a charm. The only downside was that some of my large size eggs were not quite big enough to fill up the bunny, bear, and star molds so the shapes were not as defined as the fish, heart, and car. Regardless they were cute enough to eat!

I left a couple eggs whole for the man to snack on and the rest were turned into deviled eggs. I think a plateful of star shaped deviled eggs at a summer barbecue would be the perfect addition.

Deviled Eggs
6 hard boiled eggs, cooled, cut in half
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 T yellow mustard
1/8 t tabasco sauce
2 T spicy relish (I use Wickles)
fresh ground black pepper
paprika, for sprinkling

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, tabasco sauce, spicy relish, and fresh ground pepper. Mix together until smooth and well combined. Spoon or pipe mixture into the egg white halves. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

June 15, 2012

Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup

Ah, comfort food. Ethnic dishes are much loved and often enjoyed by us, but warm, strong dishes classified as American comfort food are always welcome at our table. While we appreciate old-fashioned recipes, a twist on the familiar can bring about a new fave to serve for family and friends.

This tomato soup is a perfect example. It is a hearty soup and very simple to make. It has a sophisticated flavor from the fire-roasted tomatoes and smoky Tabasco brand Chipotle sauce. This soup can be the main dish to a salad, or paired with the trusty grilled cheese sandwich. However you serve it, you won’t be sorry!

Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup
4 T unsalted butter, divided
3-1/2 T all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 t minced garlic
2 (14.5 oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
4 C water
2 T sugar
1 t Tabasco brand Chipotle sauce
1/4 t pepper
1/8 t salt
1/4 C half and half

Create a roux by melting 2 T of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue to cook for 5 minutes, whisking continuously.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 2 T of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and saute until the vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the water, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Tabasco sauce, pepper, and salt. Stir gently to combine ingredients, bring soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer and whisk in the roux. Continue to cook soup at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the half and half, stir to heat through, and serve.

Makes 6 tasty servings

June 7, 2012

Animal Graham Crackers

I am a sucker for small, cute snacks, especially if they are animal shaped, so it’s no surprise that I wanted to make animal graham crackers. I had an enjoyable time making these cookies, even if I did wind up with much more than anticipated. Since I had so many teeny tiny cookies, I was able to decorate them in a couple different ways.

I recently bought some vanilla CandiQuik to try out because I don’t like the flavor of Wilton’s candy melts. I really liked the CandiQuik, it’s not overly sweet and is easy to work with, so will now be my go to for candy coating. I also melted some bittersweet chocolate chips for dipping cookies and then left a handful of them plain.

From what I researched on the interwebs, these animal graham crackers can be fed to the animals. The ingredients are all dog-friendly so you can let your pup enjoy the plain ones with you.

Animal Graham Crackers
3/4 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C rolled oats, finely chopped
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C heavy cream
2 T honey
1/2 t vanilla

Heat oven to 350ºF. Set aside two cookie sheets.

In a food processor, pulse oats until finely chopped. In a small bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, salt, and baking powder then set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the dry ingredients and mix for 15 seconds. Add the milk, honey, and vanilla and mix until dough forms, about 15-30 seconds.

Remove the dough and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Remove from refrigerator, place on lightly floured surface, roll to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut out with desired cookie cutters. Gather the remaining dough, roll again and cut out cookies, repeating until all of the dough has been used. You can place cut out cookies on cookie sheets close together, since they do not spread. Bake for 5-6 minutes, until edges have lightly browned. I rotated between three cookie sheets, filling one at a time, then baking, then allowing the sheet to cool. Cool cookies on pans for 5 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely.

If frosting the cookies, you can use royal icing, melted chocolate, or candy coating. Top with sprinkles after each cookie is iced, let icing harden, and enjoy!

Makes 96 1-inch cookies

June 4, 2012

Cheese Straws

Simple, quick, and tasty. Oh how I love making food that can be described with those words. I was fortunate to be the recipient of a cookbook from Parragon Books Ltd, called 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies, & Other Tempting Treats (Love Food). I’ve made a few items already and have found them to be solid recipes, and there are plenty more that I want to try. There are pictures for all of the recipes and almost every recipe has substitution ideas and quantities, which is helpful in case you don’t have an ingredient or don’t care for a particular flavor.

Most recently I made cheese straws, though I did make some very minor changes which are noted below in parenthesis. Also, you may have noticed by now that I do not egg wash anything that I bake, but that’s just me. To me the cheese straws fall between a biscuit and a cracker, flaky but holding up well when you bite into them so that you’re not left with a bunch of crumbs.

Cheese Straws
(reprinted with permission)
heaping 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
1 tsp curry powder (I omitted)
4 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing (I used parchment lined pans to avoid greasing the pans)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
poppy and cumin seeds, for sprinkling (I omitted)

Sift the flour, salt, and curry powder into a bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and half the egg and mix to form a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC. Grease several large baking sheets. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to 1/4 inch/5 mm thick, then cut into 3 x 1/2-inch/7.5 x 1-cm strips. Pinch the strips lightly along the sides and place on the baking sheets. (I twisted each strip prior to baking for added flair.)

Brush the strips with the remaining egg and sprinkle half with poppy seeds and half with cumin seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 24 (mine were larger so I got 10 and then rolled the scraps of dough into crescents)

June 1, 2012

Chocolate Flaky Pie Dough

That's right, chocolate flaky pie dough!

Allowing myself to be more creative and experimental has helped fuel my new taste for pie. The man and I were headed to his parents for dinner and I quickly volunteered to bring dessert. It was the least I could do to cap off the wonderful foods I knew his mother would prepare. I had been toying with the idea of chocolate flaky pie dough. Why couldn’t I do it? Why do you not see chocolate pie crust beyond crushed up cookies pressed into a dish? Did the world know something I didn’t?

Since I found little to no information, I decided it was my duty to try it out and share with the world my findings, and I am glad I did! The result was a subtle chocolate taste to complement the berries I used in the filling. The dough was tender and flaky, and no pie wound up with a soggy bottom crust. Also, the contrast of the dark dough against the red berries was a thing of beauty. My trial pies were shared among four friends, and I felt confident they were worthy of making for the parents.

Chocolate Flaky Pie Dough
450g all-purpose flour
4 T cocoa powder
2 T sugar
300g unsalted butter, cold, cubed
150 ml water, cold
1 t salt

If this is your first time making flaky pie dough or you need a refresher, pop over to this post for full details and pictures. Who doesn't love looking at pictures?

Double Berry Filling 
2 discs of flaky pie dough
3 C fresh strawberries, trimmed and quartered
3 C fresh raspberries
1 C sugar
1/4 C corn starch
2 T lemon juice
2 T water
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

The above recipe is for one 9-inch pie or four 5-inch pies as pictured in this post.

Heat oven to 375º F. Roll out the dough in the necessary size for the pie dish being used. Place the dough in the dish and then keep refrigerated until ready to use.

In a small bowl, whisk together the corn starch, lemon juice, and water then set aside. In a saucepan, combine the strawberries, raspberries, and sugar and heat on medium-high. Gently stir in corn starch mixture and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and fill prepared pie dish with all of the fruit and half of the liquid. Top pie in desired form and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for about 45 minutes for a 9-inch pie, about 23 minutes for 5-inch pies. Place pie on wire rack to cool completely. Best if left to cool and set for about 4 hours before serving.