Thursday, January 28, 2016

BBB - Adjaruli Khachapuri - a Georgian Boat Shaped Bread

Oh my goodness, am I glad I decided to make this challenge recipe at the last minute!  Not the fact that it was last minute, but that I made it at all, it was so delicious.  This is one of those regional recipes that has many variations and lots of history.
"Acharuli/Adjaruli Khachapuri is a boat shaped bread from Georgia, that has melted salty cheese and a soft cooked egg or sometimes two in the middle hollow part of the “boat”. The name Khachapuri has its origins in the words “Khacho ” meaning cottage cheese / cheese curd” and “Puri” meaning bread. I believe the Georgians often eat this very popular bread as a snack or for lunch."
I didn't do the egg because I am the only one in my family who would eat it that way. Since I had a Mexican dish for dinner, I went toward that theme with my topping. What I ended up with was cheesy bread heaven. Even the girls, who are very picky about melty cheese, declared it quite tasty. Hubby said it was awesome and I agree. Do go and check out the original post at My Diverse Kitchen and scroll down to see all the versions made by this group.  My version is noted by any changes in blue.

Acharuli/ Adjaruli Khachapuri
(Adapted from Saveur)

For the Dough:
1 tsp instant yeast
½ tsp sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 egg (optional) (left out)
1½ cups flour, plus more for dusting (1 cup light spelt, ¾ cup all purpose flour)
1 tsp salt

For the Filling:
1½ cups grated/ shredded Mozzarella
1½ cups crumbled feta cheese
2 eggs (or any other topping of choice)

My Filling:
1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 heaping tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2-4 cloves pressed garlic
1 tbsp chopped chives
sliced Roma tomatoes
sprinkle of oregano

For topping after baking:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed

Put all the ingredients for the dough into a mixing bowl and combine/knead together with a dough hook or your hands until a smooth and somewhat loose elastic dough forms. This dough should not be too dry.

Transfer the ball of dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Loosely cover and let rise till double in volume, about 1 to 1½ hours. It will hold a little longer if necessary.

Place a pizza stone or a baking sheet on a rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 250ºC (485ºF). (I baked at 450ºF)

Combine the cheeses in a bowl and set aside. (Combine cheeses, sour cream, mayo, garlic and chives.) Deflate the dough and divide it into two halves. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into a rectangle about 10” long and 1/8” thick on a piece of lightly floured parchment. This makes it easier to transfer the dough to your baking sheet.

Roll the long edges in a bit curving them inwards at the ends and seal well (with a little water) or the edges will open up during baking. I pressed along the inner edge with my fingernail to seal. Then bring the edges close and pinch together on both ends to form a “boat” like shape. Again, make sure the ends are sealed well. Transfer the “boats” to the baking sheet or leave on parchment if using a pizza stone.

Dock the center area and fill with half of the cheese mixture so that it is a little higher than the edges of the dough “boat”. Repeat with the other half of dough. Right now is when I topped with sliced tomatoes and sprinkled with oregano. Bake them for about 12 to 15 minutes until the Khachapuri are golden brown.

Take the breads out of the oven and gently crack an egg on each bread without breaking the yolk (for the traditional topping) and return them to the oven. Bake for another 3 to 4 minutes till the egg is set.

Take the Adjaruli Khachapuri out, and place a couple of cubes (2tbsp) butter on each. Serve them hot. It helps to wait for about 10 minutes before eating them so you don’t burn your mouth! This recipe should serve 4 to 6 people.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sausage Ratatouille

We love this meal.  When I told the girls I was making it tonight, they both immediately requested that any leftovers be marked for their lunch boxes tomorrow.  I clipped the original recipe from a magazine six years ago and it sat in a folder for about five years of that time.  Last year I noticed it while clearing out old recipes and decided to try the recipe out.  It was the first time my kids had tried egg plant, and possibly the first time I had cooked with it myself.  Certainly the first successful time!  For my eldest, it was an instant favorite.  Little sis was a bit dubious about the eggplant, but loved the rest.  Now, it is an eagerly anticipated dish and I almost always get cheers when I mention it is on the menu.  Even my Dad requested the recipe after I served it to my folks!  Mom said with a wry smile, that he liked it better than hers.  My Mom is a completely awesome cook by the way.  

I think one of the reasons it turns out so well is that the dish is built in stages.  The eggplant and zucchini are first cooked separately and then added back in later on.  This prevents them from becoming a mushy mess.  It really is a delightful dish and a great way to start off someone who is new to eggplant.  The sausage makes it a full meal, but ratatouille is often simply the vegetable part served as a side or appetizer on top of a crusty baguette.

Sausage Ratatouille
Serves 6
Adapted from Family Fun

4 links Mild Italian Sausage
5 tbsp olive oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into ¾" pieces
2 small zucchini, halved and sliced
1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
1 medium green bell pepper, quartered, seeded and sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 can (14.5oz) diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley or 2 tsp dried (2 tbsp if using freeze dried)
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil or 3 tsp dried

Puncture the sausage links and place in a pot of boiling water.  Cook at a low boil until no longer pink in the middle.  Drain and cool, then slice into ¼-½" rounds and set aside.

 I found this gorgeous striped eggplant at the market.  It was so creamy colored and no dark seeds like the dark purple aubergines.

Warm 3½ tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the eggplant and zucchini and season with a little salt and pepper.  

Sauté, stirring often, until lightly browned but not soft.  About 7 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Warm remaining 1½ tbsp oil in the skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and green pepper and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and sausage and sauté and stir for 3 more minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, eggplant and zucchini.  Season with the 1 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper.

Add the herbs and partly cover the skillet.  Gently simmer for the next 5-10 minutes.

Garnish with fresh basil chiffonade if desired.

This is a great one dish meal, but you can round it out with some crusty bread and a nice green salad.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lemon Cheesecake Crinkles with Scratch or Shortcut Options

I tried out these cookies because a friend posted them on facebook and I needed a recipe to make for my kids' homework club dessert.  They got rave reviews and I liked them even better when they had aged a day.  This is a good last minute, throw together recipe if you happen to keep cake mixes on hand.  We can't use store bought cake mixes because of the ingredients, but I happened to have a homemade cake mix in the freezer that worked beautifully!  It was a vanilla, yellow cake mix but I converted it to a lemon cake mix fairly easily for the recipe.  The only drawback is that because of the frosting, the cookies are not stackable.  However they do freeze and thaw well.  I had one set that I took out to thaw and they got left out overnight, in their sealed container.  The next day they were amazingly tender with delicate crispy shell around the outside.  Really good and just the right amount of lemon.  They weren't decidedly puckery like lemon bars, but tart enough that you weren't left feeling cheated out of the lemon experience.  I think I would do them exactly the same way again.  If you don't happen to have citric acid on hand, I would suggest using more lemon zest.  I added it for tartness in the mix because I adore lemon desserts and sweet, bland lemon flavor is just wrong in my opinion.  Citrus should be citrusy.  If you only keep yellow or white cake mixes on hand, you can add the same things I did to turn mine into a lemon mix.  Play around with the amount of citric acid to suit your own desired level of tartness.  This makes more frosting then you need, a half batch might suffice, especially since these cookies are great even without the frosting.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 box lemon cake mix (recipe for homemade cake mix follows)
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
2 eggs
Zest and juice of one large lemon (2-3 tbsp juice and 1 tsp zest)
1½ cups powdered sugar

1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice of one large lemon (2-3 tbsp juice and 1 tsp zest)
¼ tsp lemon oil (for baking, not essential oil!) 

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine cake mix, oil, eggs, lemon juice and zest, and mix until it is uniformly combined and smooth.  Chill the dough for 15-20 minutes to make it easier to handle.  Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls with your hands and then roll in the powdered sugar until well covered.  Place balls on a parchment lined baking sheet.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes until just set and starting to turn golden around the edges.  Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting:  Mix the cream cheese until fluffy, add in half the powdered sugar and mix to combine.  Add the vanilla, juice and zest and mix.  Add the rest of the powdered sugar a bit at a time until the frosting has the desired amount of tart/sweet and consistency.  

Pipe frosting onto the cookies with a decorating bag.  Or simply use a quart freezer ziptop bag with a small corner cut off to pipe the frosting.

To convert my yellow cake mix into a lemon cake mix, I added 1½-2 tsp fresh micro-planed lemon zest, ½ tsp lemon oil, and ½ tsp citric acid.  This will convert one box portion of mix.

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
Makes 2 boxes worth - use one and freeze one
Adapted from Chef Tess Bakeresse

4½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup tapioca starch (or cornstarch if corn is not an issue)
2½ cups sugar (I used organic evaporated cane sugar)
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt (I used a slightly scant tbsp sea salt)
1 cup shortening (or butter)  (I used half butter, half unhydrogenated shortening)
1 tbsp double strength vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients in a stand mixer on low.  Add the shortening/butter in bits and combine on low until a fine meal is achieved.  Drizzle in vanilla while mixer is running and combine well.  You could also use a food processor to make this or cut in the fat by hand and run it through a flour sifter to get a fine meal. 

Makes about 9 cups mix.  4½ cups is one box mix.  I divided mine by weight and got 24.5 oz each.  I believe the butter is heavier than the shortening as well as the less refined sugar than its white counterpart.  Since I used part butter, I am keeping the other mix in the freezer.  (Shortening for tenderness and butter for flavor in a cake.)  Using all shortening would be shelf stable for maybe a month or so.  According to the author, you can flavor this with oil flavorings as well as citrus zests and it mixes up exactly like a store bought mix with the 3 eggs, 1/3 cup oil and 1 1/3 cups water.

Adapted from

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Extra-Chocolatey Cocoa Brownie Cookies

My mom got a KitchenAid a year ago.  I was a bit jealous because mine was 16 years old and needed a tune up.  It still needs one but at least I've had it and this was her first, so I'm happy she finally got a nice machine.  One nice thing that came with the new machine was a beautiful cookbook.  It was the title recipe that caught my eye at first, but there are a lot of dishes in there I'd like to try.  Mom let me borrow it because she won't really use it, and I can test out the good looking recipes before I return it.  So, big surprise, I started out with a sweet recipe:  Extra-Chocolatey Brownie Cookies.  These cookies are just barely adapted from that recipe.  The batter is super dangerous.  (Yum.)  The cookies are large, rich and satisfyingly chocolately.  If you want them super pretty, like a cookbook picture, press a few pieces of chocolate and nuts into the dough after you have scooped it onto the sheet.  That's how they do it for those pretty staged photos.  This is a Messy Kitchen though so... yeah I don't do that, sorry.  Here, this is how it looks if you want to waste invest that extra time on it:

I do recommend these cookies for those chocolate lovers out there!  If you want to stick with the original recipe and use larger chocolate chunks for effect, it calls for one 11½oz package.

Extra-Chocolatey Brownie Cookies
adapted from the Complete KitchenAid Stand Mixer Cookbook
makes 3 dozen medium cookies or 2 dozen large cookies
2¼ cups light spelt flour or 2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process preferred)
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp sea salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown muscovado sugar, lightly packed
½ cup evaporated cane sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
¾ cup mini chocolate chips
½ cup mini white chocolate chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl until well blended.  Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixer on medium, until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Add flour gradually and beat on low until blended.  Fold in the chips and nuts.  Drop dough by double tablespoonfuls about 2" apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Flatten slightly before baking.  Bake for 12 minutes or until set.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

These are delightful with a nice tall glass of milk!