Monday, February 27, 2012

BBB- Biscotti Picanti

Good thing it's a leap year, I had one more day to procrastinate on this month's BBB buddy bake.  I needn't have, these crispy Sicilian Spicy Rusks were full of flavor and texture.  They got a thumbs up from me and R.  I was surprised that they didn't fly with the hubby because he loves rye crisps and these reminded me of those.  I think my olive oil is getting too old and possibly left a bitter flavor for him.  *Sob*  I'll try again with really good fresh stuff.  I've never been that big on sweet biscotti simply because they are so hard.  This savory version does not have that problem - the olive oil makes them super crispy and tender.  I really loved the hit from the black pepper.  Very interesting bread/cracker.  The original recipe was generously shared by the author, Anissa Helou.  You can find the original BBB post at Notitie van Lien.  What follows is the recipe as written on her post.  (I used a mix of flours, spelt, semolina, and all purpose as well as a mix of fennel, sesame and caraway seeds for my "what's available in the pantry" version.)

Biscotti Picanti (Sicilian Spicy Rusks)(makes about 36 rusks)

2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast (1 package = 7 grams)
¼ cup (60 ml) warm water
1 ⅔ (± 225-255 g) cups AP-flour (+ extra for kneading and shaping)
1 ⅔ (240 g) cups semolina flour
¼ cups (25 g) aniseed
3 TBsp (28 g) white sesame seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup + 2 TBsp (150 ml/130 g) extra-virgin olive oil (+ extra for greasing the bowl)
¼ cup (60 ml) dry white wine
115 ml water

1. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup/60 ml warm water and stir until creamy.
2. Combine flours, aniseed, sesame seeds, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the olive oil in the well and rub into the flour with your fingertips until well incorporated.

3. Add yeast, wine and ½ cup (115 ml) warm water en knead briefly to make a rough ball of dough. Knead this for another 3-5 minutes or so. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Knead for another 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and let rise in a lightly greased bowl, covered with greased plastic, for 1 hour in a warm place (or until doubled).

4. Divide the dough in 3 equal pieces and shape each piece into a loaf about 12”( 30 cm) long.
Transfer the logs to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and leaving at least 2 inches/5 cm between them so they can expand. Take a dough cutter (or sharp knife) and cut the loaves into 1 inch/2,5 cm thick slices (or if you prefer them thinner in 1"/1 cm slices). Cover with greased plastic and let the rise for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 500ºF/260ºC.

5. Bake the sliced loaves for 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 175ºF/80ºC.
Separate the slices and turn so that they lie flat on the baking sheet. Return to the oven and bake for about 1 hour more, or until golden brown and completely hardened (if not totally hardened, return to the turned off oven to let them dry more).Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Serve at room temperature, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

(adapted from: “Savory baking from the Mediterranean” - Anissa Helou)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Marble Cake - Sky High

 I am going to have to buy a cookbook.  While searching around and looking on Pinterest for birthday cake ideas for the hubby, I finally landed on this delightful recipe.  A beautiful scratch cake with a tight crumb, dense but not heavy, and enough flavor to make you sit up and pay attention.  I will definitely make this again.  The cake comes from a book I have heard of before: Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes.  If all the recipes pack this much punch, it will be a worthwhile investment.  I love how the cake turned out.  Smooth, firm and still moist.  It's like wedding cake texture.  And because it packs such a lot into each mouthful, small pieces go a long way.  LOL, the hubby cut a huge piece for himself and then had second thoughts when it landed on his plate and he felt the actual weight of it.  With a box mix, that piece might have worked, but this was no air filled sponge.  He valiantly tried to finish it off, but regretfully had to throw in the towel about two thirds through.  He did say however, that it wasn't often that he actually felt bad about having to leave a piece of cake unfinished.  This is a man that sugars out very fast.

I absolutely adore the homemade jam filling for this thing!  I would make that just to use as jam.  It's tart and immensely flavorful.  I used about half a teaspoon of the fresh ginger and was very happy with the flavor.  (Be sure and make the jam before the cake so you can do the marbling.)  I'm running on about it, but there is such a marathon of wonderful sweet tart flavor going on here.  I had to laugh when hubby paused on observing that the buttercream was lemon.  He asked if that would work with the blueberry.  Yes dear, lemon and blueberries are a match made in heaven.  To which he heartily agreed after his first bite.  

The only change I would and did make to this cake was to "fortify" the french buttercream with a half batch of my favorite easy vanilla bean butter frosting (not a cooked buttercream).  Cooked buttercreams are super silky and rich but we personally like a little more texture to our frosting which is provided by a little powdered sugar.  Plus it holds up to warm temperatures better.

Lemon Blueberry Marble Cake

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
2 cups sugar (I used evaporated cane sugar)
2 tsp grated lemon zest 
1½ tsp lemon extract 
¼ tsp vanilla extract
7 egg whites 
3 cups cake flour 
4 tsp baking powder 
½ tsp salt 
1¼ cups milk (I used whole milk)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-Inch round cake pans.  (I only had thin, short 9" pans and the batter puffed up to the brim so make sure your 8" pans have tall sides.)  Line the bottom of each pan with parchment cut to fit, and butter the paper.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest and extracts until light and fluffy.  Add the egg whites 2 or 3 at a time.  Beat well between additions and scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, whisk gently to blend.  Starting and ending with flour, and in a few alternating additions, mix the dry ingredients and milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.  Mix on medium-high speed for another minute to smooth and "fluff" the batter.
Reserve 1 cup of the batter in a small bowl.  Divide the rest of the batter among the 3 prepared pans, and smooth tops with a spatula.  Add 2½ tbsp of the lemon blueberry jam to the reserved batter and mix in.  Drizzle heaping teaspoons of the blueberry cake mixture over the batter in the pans.  Use a wooden skewer to swirl the blueberry mixture in short strokes to drag it down through the lemon batter without mixing it in fully.  (Make sure the dollops of blueberry batter are spread evenly to ensure a nice marble, I kind of plopped most of mine toward the center.  Next time...)
Bake about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer stuck in the center comes out clean and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  Peel off the paper and leave to cool completely.

Blueberry Lemon Jam - make this first!

3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
¾ cup sugar (I used evaporated cane sugar)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 
1½ tsp grated lemon zest 
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (optional) (I used ½ tsp)

Puree the blueberries along with any thawed juices in a blender.  Strain through a coarse strainer to remove the skins.
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, combine the puree with sugar, lemon juice, zest and ginger (if using). Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring often for about 20 minutes, or until the jam has thickened and are reduced to about 1 cup.
Check for proper thickness by placing a small amount on a cold saucer and allowing to chill.  If a clear path is made through the jam when a finger is dragged through, then it is ready.  Let the jam cool before using. (Can be made up to 5 days in advance).

Lemon Buttercream

1 cup sugar 
¼ cup water 
2 eggs 
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Continue to boil without stirring, washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally until the syrup reaches soft-ball stage, 238º F on a candy thermometer.  Immediately remove from heat.
In a stand mixer, beat the eggs briefly.  Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream at the side of the bowl to avoid hitting the beaters and splattering. When all the syrup has been added, increase speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy, light in color and cooled to body temperature. This can take from 15 to 20 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter a couple tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions.  As you’re adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break and curdle, then suddenly come together like whipped butter.  (Mine did that on the first tablespoon of the third stick.  Don't panic, it does come back together.)
Beat in the lemon juice and zest (if using), and the frosting is ready to use.  If you decide to make this ahead and chill, the frosting must come completely back to room temp in order to refluff with a mixer.  If it tries to separate, it is still too cold.

To assemble the cake place a layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate.  Spread half of the remaining lemon blueberry jam over the top.  (I spread a super thin layer of frosting on first to help keep the filling from soaking into the cake.)  Place a second layer on top of the first and spread the remaining jam over it. 

Finally place the third layer on top and frost the top and sides with the lemon buttercream.  Decorate with fresh blueberries if desired and serve.  Cake can be refrigerated to stiffen up the frosting and served that way as well.

Makes one 8" (or 9") triple layered cake.

Inspired by the post at lick the bowl good

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Real Strawberry Marshmallows

Okay, everyone should try dipping candies with a four year old.  It's quite the experience...  I like these strawberry marshmallows because they are such a delicate shade of pink; made with real strawberries and not just fake flavoring, they are of course corn syrup free.  They are perfectly wonderful dipped in chocolate.  Almost like chocolate covered strawberries but with a slightly longer shelf life.  Of course it is perfectly acceptable to leave them au naturale as well.  And I may have to dip some in white chocolate for the hubby.

These are adapted from Marshmallows: Homemade Gourmet Treats, my favorite unique treat cookbook.  It's a gorgeous book, worth having for the appealing coffee table quality alone.  Today, in honor of Valentine pinkness, it is strawberry mallow time.  Well, I made them last night and cut and dipped today.  Gotta account for the curing time...  These can be enjoyed as a plain candy, a chocolate dipped candy, or used to make a gourmet cup of hot cocoa.  Yum.  Today I used the last of my invert syrup from October, now finally starting to crystallize on me, but you could also use golden syrup to make these.  One thing Eileen recommends is not to use fresh berries in the off season and I agree.  They do not have enough flavor:  use thawed frozen berries.  This is a half batch and makes plenty for us.  For thick square marshmallows, use a 9" square pan.  For easier shape cutting, spread into a 9x13" pan so they aren't too tall.  Remember, homemade marshmallows freeze wonderfully.  (One 10 oz package of frozen strawberries will give enough puree for this recipe.  Strain the puree if you don't want any seeds - they're tiny so it's not a huge deal.)

Strawberry Marshmallows

The bloom:
 2 tbsp unflavored gelatin
½ cup + 2 tbsp pureed strawberries at cool room temperature

The base:
¼ cup water
1/3 cup pureed strawberries
1 tsp lemon juice
½ cup + 2 tbsp invert syrup or golden syrup
1 cup granulated cane sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar)
tiny pinch salt

Coating mixture**

Prepare the pan for the marshmallows by spraying or coating with oil and wiping down with a napkin to leave only a thin film.

Measure out the puree for the bloom and stir in the gelatin so that no lumps remain.  Set aside.

Set a cup with warm water and a pastry brush near the stove.  This base foams up high and will not be boiled covered.  It may be necessary to wash down sugar crystals with the pastry brush while cooking.  Place the base ingredients in a minimum 2 Qt heavy bottom saucepan.  Heat over medium and watch closely.  Bring to boil, washing down any errant sugar crystals with the brush.  Once it boils, stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer.  Boil until the mixture reaches 245ºF.

Update: I have found that having the syrup too hot can result in a somewhat gooey or stringy texture in the finished marshmallows because the high temperature degrades the gelatin.  Best to let the syrup cool to around 212º before adding to the gelatin.

Turn off the heat and stir in the bloomed gelatin mixture.  Pour the batter into a stand mixer bowl and gradually increase speed to high, using the whip attachment.  Beat for 10 minutes until light and thick (increased in volume two to threefold).  Spread into the prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula or wet fingers.  Let it cure, uncovered for at least 4 hours or over night at room temperature.

**For the coating:  Sift together ¾ cups powdered sugar (Whole Foods carries powdered sugar made with tapioca starch instead of cornstarch if corn is an issue) and ¼ cup arrowroot or tapioca starch.  Lightly sprinkle a work surface with the mixture.  Ease the marshmallows away from the sides of the pan and flip the pan over, releasing the marshmallows onto the cutting surface.  (Flip again - it is easier to get clean lines while cutting if cutting down through the outer cured side first.)  Cut the marshmallows into squares, or use cookie cutters to cut fancy shapes.  Toss the cut marshmallows in the powdered sugar mixture, shaking off any excess.

Place the coated marshmallows in an airtight container, with waxed paper between the layers, and leave a corner of the lid slightly ajar.  They will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  They will also freeze for months.

If desired, dip the marshmallows into chocolate after cutting into squares or whatever shapes you choose.  I used a couple handfuls of chocolate chips and a half teaspoon of coconut oil for my coating.

Check out Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love for more corn and allergy free ideas!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Baked Egg Soufflé

I've really been loving those spinach and artichoke "baked egg soufflés" they have at Panera Bread.  Trouble is, they have bad things in them like soybean oil and modified food starch and who knows what else.  Tasty as they may be, I am going to try to wean off them and make my own.  The puff pastry method is a mix of quick puff techniques from Fine Cooking and Gordon Ramsay.  I suppose you could just go buy it, but I love how it turned out with the spelt flour!  Plus, I'm pretty sure the store bought kind is not R safe.  Let's see... yup.  Horrible list of ingredients.  I'll have to make up a batch or two of this easy puff to keep in the freezer for recipes.  I'll also make up a batch or two of these soufflés (honestly, they are really just quiches) to keep in the freezer.  And I only have to share them with S because hubby doesn't like eggs, (poor boy), and R likes hers plain.  Oh, and S's reaction to these soufflés: "Mmmmmm, delicious!" 

Update for better flavor.

Spinach Artichoke Baked Egg Soufflé
makes 4 mini tarts

3 tbsp frozen spinach, thawed and minced
3 tbsp minced artichoke hearts
1 tsp dried minced onion or 2 tsp finely minced fresh
1 tsp finely minced red bell pepper
pinch garlic powder
4 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
2 tbsp whole milk
2 tbsp heavy cream
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup shredded Jack cheese
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
½ tsp arrowroot starch
¼ tsp fine grain sea salt
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ cup shredded Asiago cheese

Rough Puff:
makes 1 sheet
250g light spelt flour
1 tsp fine grain sea salt (½ tsp if using salted butter)
250g butter, room temp but not soft (1 cup of butter is about 227 g, you can cut back the flour to that weight too)
100-150ml cold water

For the puff pastry, combine the flour and salt into a large bowl.  Break the butter into small pieces, add them to the bowl and rub them in loosely with your fingers. You need to see chunks of butter. 

Make a well in the mixture and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water, mixing until you have a firm rough dough adding extra water if needed.  (Less is more here, I could have left it a bit shaggier - it will still come together after a few folds, even if the first folds are in pieces.)  Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for 20 minutes in the fridge.  

Turn out onto a lightly floured board, press down gently and form into a smooth rectangle.  Roll the dough in one direction only, until it's about ½" thick.   Keep edges straight and even.  The first few folds may take a little encouragement. Use a pastry scraper if necessary to fold the dough in thirds like a business letter. Don't worry if it folds in pieces. Don't overwork the butter streaks; you should have a marbled effect.  (This is about two folds into the process since I had more than enough water.)

Turn the package of dough and roll again, rolling from open end to open end.  Keep rolling, folding and turning until the dough looks smooth. By four or five "turns" the dough should hold together well.  I added a book fold too for extra flakiness.  That's the two short ends into the middle.  (And the tarts turned out beautifully flaky.)

Chill the dough for 30 minutes and then give it another couple folds/turns.  And it's ready to use!  Puff pastry in an hour, super cool.

Now we're ready for the actual tarts.

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Combine the spinach, artichoke hearts, onion, garlic powder and red bell pepper in a medium bowl.  Beat 4 eggs and add to vegetables.  Then mix in the milk, cream, cheeses, arrowroot, salt and pepper.  Beat well with a fork.

Take out the puff pastry and lightly flour.  (There is enough dough for almost two batches, so just save the rest for another use.  It will last a few days in the fridge or a couple months in the freezer.)  Roll out 4 squares about 6" on each side.  Light oil the inside of 4 mini tart pans, preferably with removable bottoms.

Line each pan with the dough, leaving the overhanging edges outside, then scoop equal amounts of egg mixture into each ramekin (about 1/3 cup for my metal tart pans), and top each with 1 tbsp Asiago.  Beat the last egg in a small bowl with 1 tsp water.  Lift each edge and gently paint the outside with the egg wash, then fold over the filling.  Place the tart pans on a baking sheet.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until dough is golden brown.  Don't over-bake or the filling will not be as creamy.  Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the soufflés from the tins and serve hot.

Adapted from epicurious.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meatball stew

Mom used to make a meatball stew with carrots, potatoes, meatballs... and a can of beefy mushroom soup.  I loved that stew; mom made the best meatballs.  But beefy mushroom soup is definitely not allergy friendly for R.  I don't know what it is about beef, but most manufacturers find the need to add all kinds of things to beef broths and soups.  (Campbell's Beefy Mushroom ingredient list: Beef Stock, Water, Seasoned Cooked Beef (Beef, Water, Salt, Sodium Phosphate), Mushrooms, Modified Food Starch, Contains less than 2% of the Following Ingredients: Salt, Vegetable Oil, Wheat Flour, Yeast Extract, Potato Starch, Hydrolyzed Yeast Protein, Monosodium Glutamate, Dehydrated Onions, Caramel Color, Beef Fat, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein and Wheat Gluten, Spice Extract, Dextrose.)  Now that's a bellyache in a can.  So in answer to my craving for that old comfort food, I whipped up some canned soup free meatball stew.  The sauce isn't as thick as that old canned version, but I could always thicken it up if I wanted.  I like it thin too.  Funnily enough, the night I made this, hubby was working late and I wasn't expecting him home so we ate a bit late.  He came in the door as we were eating and had bought a can of Chunky Vegetable Beef Soup to scarf down for dinner before he went back to work.  This was so much better and he was able to go plug back in, happily fed with good home cooked stew instead of highly processed, canned glop.  ☺

Meatball Stew
Serves 6-8
1 slice bread, turned into crumbs
1 lb ground beef, grass fed preferred
1 pkg of 4 mild italian sausages, removed from casings (we have a good local brand with good ingredients)
2 eggs
1 tbsp dried parsley
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper

1½ tbsp flour (I used white spelt)
2 small onions, sliced into chunks
4 small carrots, sliced into coins
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite sized chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp lemon pepper
¼ tsp mixed pepper flakes (you can also use red pepper flakes for more heat)
¼ tsp italian seasoning
3 tbsp refined coconut oil
1 tbsp garlic olive oil
3 small (or 2 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and chunked
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1 14.5oz can green beans, drained
2 cups chicken stock (homemade if you've got it)

For the meatballs, put all the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl and combine thoroughly with your hands.  Form the mixture into 20-25 meatballs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet while you heat the pan and chop the veggies.  Set the oven to warm.  Sprinkle the flour over the meatballs and turn to coat on the paper.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat for a minute and add 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil.  (Gives very crispy coating.)  Place the meatballs into the skillet, spaced apart. You may need to do two batches.  Cook and turn, a couple minutes per side until the meatballs are browned and set all over.   Move the meatballs back to the baking sheet and place in the oven set to warm.

Add the garlic olive oil to the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, peppers and half of the salt and pepper.  Cook until soft, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, pepper flakes, broth and remaining salt and peppers.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the meatballs back to the pan.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the potatoes are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. 

Adapted from Food Network