I am a HUGE sports fan, so even though my Patriots won't be playing in next Sunday's Super Bowl, you can bet I'll still be watching the big game. Besides, it's an excuse to have a party with friends and eat yummy food, and who doesn't love that? I've spent the past few weeks trying to narrow down the list of possible menu items and to be honest, it's tough! Our party will likely be quite small this year, so I can't justify making enough food to feed a small army :) Dips are an easy, make-ahead option, and given my love of both onions and bacon, this recipe rose to the top of my list quickly.
Often when I decide to make a recipe from a cookbook or magazine I'll search the internet before starting to see if other bloggers have tried it, and find out what they thought. I had my heart set on trying this roasted onion and bacon dip from Cook's Illustrated so I crossed my fingers hoping I wouldn't come across countless bloggers who weren't fans, which would definitely have had me thinking twice about my selection. When I discovered that Bridget (who, like me, is a giant Cook's Illustrated fan) had adapted it and enjoyed it, well, it was a no-brainer. The dip starts with onions which are roasted in the oven instead of being caramelized on top of the stove. This shortens the amount of hands-on time required while still delivering the flavor of caramelized onions. While the onions roast you'll have time to cook a few strips of bacon which you can crumble and add to the dip as well. Caramelized onions are pretty awesome on their own, but the smoky bacon is the icing on the cake here! I highly recommend making this dip at least a day before you want to serve it; I thought it was considerably better on day 2 after the flavors had melded.
This week I'll be sharing several new recipes I think would be perfect for your Super Bowl party. In the meantime, I dug through the archives and came up with a number of my old favorites that would also be great additions to your menu. Enjoy!
Soft Pretzel Bites
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Twice-Baked Potato Cups
No Bake Peanut Butter Squares
Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies
Baked Potato Soup
Roasted Onion and Bacon Dip
as adapted from Cook's Illustrated by The Way the Cookie Crumbles
3 medium yellow onions, unpeeled
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
6 slices bacon
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper
Cook the bacon until crisp in a skillet on the stove top. Crumble the strips and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F with a rack in the lowest position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat the foil with the olive oil. Cut the onions crosswise (through their centers, not lengthwise through the root). Using a small paring knife, cut two small X's near the end of each onion half (this helps keep the onion rings level while they cook). Place the onions cut side down on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until dark brown around bottom edge and tender when pierced with the tip of your paring knife, about 30 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and allow the onions to rest for 5 minutes before lifting them off of the pan. Once have onions have cooled, peel and finely chop them.
Add all of the ingredients (including the onions and bacon) to a medium bowl and mix well to combine You can serve immediately though I recommend covering and chilling in the fridge overnight.
Impulsive would probably not be a word used to describe me. I mull most decisions over way longer than is probably healthy, and often even after I make a decision, I find myself questioning if it was the right one. The one exception? Grocery shopping. Set me loose in a grocery store and you can almost be certain that I'll come out with at least one impulse purchase. Case in point: earlier this week I had run out to grab just a few things, I even had a list which is rare for me. Yet I found myself in the produce section pondering varieties of winter squash I didn't need. I left with this guy, and absolutely no idea what I'd do with him:
Perhaps you've tried it, but if not, this is an acorn squash. As I've mentioned before, butternut squash is one of my favorite veggies, and I've long wondered if I'd enjoy other winter squash varieties as much. The first thing I did was sit down with a stack of cookbooks and magazines looking for a suitable recipe. When I came upon this one in Cook's Country, I knew it was the winner; the squash was roasted (one of the best ways to eat veggies in my opinion) and brushed with a sweet glaze that included maple syrup. I enjoy butternut squash most when I add a touch of sweetness so I figured it would bode well for the acorn squash to give it the same treatment.
The squash is really easy to prepare. You don't have to worry about peeling it, the skin is edible and becomes tender in the oven. Cut the squash in half through the stem and you'll find seeds and pulp in the center. Scoop them out with a spoon - you can save the seeds if you want and roast them to snack on.
For this recipe you just need to cut each half into 4 wedges after you remove the seeds and pulp. The wedges are tossed with vegetable oil, salt, pepper and a bit of sugar then laid cut (flesh) side down on a rimmed baking sheet and popped into the preheated oven.
Meanwhile, you make the glaze, which is only 3 ingredients - maple syrup, butter and cayenne pepper. The maple syrup is reduced and thickened, which helps it cling to the squash later when it's brushed on. Once the butter and cayenne are added, the glaze looked and smelled a lot like caramel, which is a good thing in my book! The glaze is applied toward the end of the squash's cooking time.
The verdict? This was a delicious impulse purchase :) The squash caramelized nicely in the oven. I liked the flesh a lot - it was more fibrous than butternut but very tender and earthy. I wasn't as big a fan of the skin, but the flesh and skin were so tender it was easy to separate them. The glaze was the real star of the show though - very caramel-y and sweet - but not in a way that overpowered the squash itself. It was thick and clung to the squash nicely when brushed on. I love the simplicity and flavor of this recipe and it's definitely a repeat here, though I think butternut still remains my first choice when it comes to winter squash.
Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash
from Cook's Country, March 2011
2 acorn squash
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 475 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut each squash in half through the stem. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from both halves. Cut each half into 4 equal wedges. In a large bowl, toss the squash wedges with the vegetable oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Arrange the squash, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the bottoms of the squash are golden brown.
While the squash is baking, prepare the glaze. Pour the syrup into a small saucepan and set it over medium to medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the syrup has thickened a bit, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and cayenne pepper; whisk to combine. Cover the pan to keep the glaze warm, and set it aside.
Once the bottoms of the squash are golden, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Flip the wedges over, and brush them (the sides that had been down) with about 2/3 of the glaze. Return to the oven and bake until the squash is tender and deep golden. Flip the wedges again, and brush the side that is now facing up with the remaining glaze then serve.
From time to time, I'll be asked for recipe recommendations by friends or family members and I love being able to make a suggestion; it's one of the major benefits of having tried so many recipes for my blog. It's rare that I can't come up with something to pass along. Recently, though, a friend wanted a whoopie pie recommendation and I confess I was a bit stumped. My mind went immediately to the pumpkin whoopie pies I made last fall, which were amazing. I like to bake with pumpkin year-round, but I figure not everyone shares my passion for pumpkin, so I also wanted to offer an alternative suggestion. As I dug through my archives I was pretty surprised to discover I'd never made another whoopie pie variation! I knew I had to remedy that quickly, so I made this recipe a few weeks later.
This is a traditional whoopie pie - a marshmallow creme center sandwiched between two chocolate cookies - and, I'm glad to say, it does not disappoint. The cookies themselves are rich and chocolaty, but not too sweet, making them a perfect match for the marshmallow filling. If your mind works like mine, you might be worried about the texture of the filling, given that it contains fluff, a notoriously sticky, messy ingredient to work with. I can assure you the filling is great once it comes together - neither overly sticky nor sickly sweet. My biggest tip for this recipe - make sure you sift your cocoa powder before adding it to the batter. I rarely sift anything anymore as I find whisking generally does the job but I regretted skipping it here. I couldn't get the lumps of cocoa powder broken up in the batter and my cookies emerged from the oven with visible lumps of cocoa powder - not good but easily fixed next time.
I will happily recommend these next time someone asks about whoopie pies. And now I want to search out even more recipes to try, because I'm pretty sure you can never have enough whoopie pies in your arsenal :)
Chocolate Marshmallow Whoopie Pies
from Martha Stewart (via Annie's Eats)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
7 1/2 oz marshmallow fluff
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
To make the cookies: In a medium bowl sift the flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder together. (Don't skip the sifting - you will have lumps of cocoa powder in your cookies if you do.) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla extract until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
Using a 1-oz dough scoop, drop the batter onto the prepared baking pans, 12 cookies per pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes (rotating the pans halfway through) until the cookies spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
To make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat until incorporated - the mixture will become crumbly at first, just keep beating and it will come together. Add the marshmallow fluff and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
When the cookies have cooled completely, pair them up by size. Spread (or pipe) a dollop of the filling on the flat side of one cookie from each pair. Sandwich the cookies, pressing together to push the filling to the edges.
Store the whoopie pies in an airtight container.
Makes about 24 whoopie pies
It may be the dead of winter but that doesn't mean I've stopped craving ice cream. I'm definitely eating it less often than I do in the warmer weather, but from time to time nothing else will do when it comes time for a snack. Though mint chocolate chip will probably always be my first choice, sometimes I just want something totally different. That's exactly what happened recently when the urge to make ice cream struck. As I was trying to decide on a flavor, I saw the giant bag of oranges in my fridge and it hit me - sherbet!! I love orange sherbet, and have been meaning to make it for a while. Why not try it now in the midst of citrus season? I can't find much to love about winter but the wealth of gorgeous citrus fruit is definitely a highlight.
It turns out that making sherbet is really easy once you get all of the oranges juiced. I don't have a juicer so I was doing it by hand, and have to say it was sort of fun, maybe even therapeutic, up until about the 6th orange. The 7th and 8th were even less fun. All I could think about was watching episodes of the Barefoot Contessa where she uses the fancy electric juicer and makes it look so easy :) Oh, quick tip - be sure to zest your oranges before you juice them. Even though the recipe doesn't call for much zest, you can freeze the leftovers so you'll be all set next time you come across a recipe that calls for orange zest. I just throw mine in a resealable bag - I've got lemon, lime and orange zest stockpiled in my freezer.
The first thing you'll notice about this sherbet is that it doesn't have the intense orange color you're probably used to seeing from the ones in the store. I actually enjoy those faux orange versions, but this one blows those out of the water - it's far more delicious than any of the store-bought varieties I've tried. The flavor is bright - very reminiscent of a creamsicle - and the texture is light. I'm still on the fence about the pieces of orange zest in the sherbet; they looked pretty but I didn't love the stringy texture. So, I might leave them out next time, but otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing.
from Alton Brown (via FoodNetwork.com)
7 oz (1 cup) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (approx 2-3 pounds oranges)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups very cold whole milk
Combine all of the ingredients except the milk in the bowl of a food processor (a blender would work too). Process until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the milk. Whisk to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. You can serve immediately, but the sherbet will be soft. For a firmer texture, transfer to an airtight container and place in your freezer for at least a few hours.
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was selected by Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort: nutty, chocolatey, swirly sour cream bundt cake. Whew, that's a mouthful isn't it? On the plus side, you know exactly what you're getting - no surprises when you open your book and take a gander at the recipe. There it is - a sour cream bundt cake with a pecan (or walnuts if you prefer) and chocolate swirl running through the middle. Dorie also includes raisins and cinnamon in the swirl, though they apparently didn't make the title cut. I skipped the raisins in mine, not because I'm not a fan of raisins and chocolate (Raisinets, yum!) but because I couldn't find any at my in-laws (where I'm house sitting this week) and hadn't thought to bring any.
The most exciting thing about this week's pick though was the opportunity to use my new 6-cup bundt pan! Most bundt recipes call for a 12-cup pan, so this allows me to halve them, which means I can make room for more bundt cakes in my life. They're so easy, but a full size bundt feeds a lot of people. A mini bundt is much more manageable, and cute too :)
This bundt is pretty easy to throw together until you get to the swirl. The recipe calls for layering the cake batter and the swirl several times, and I found it nearly impossible to spread the batter over the swirl so it went into the oven mostly uncovered. I expected it all to fall off when I flipped the bundt out, but a fair amount had baked into the cake. Quite a few of the TWD'ers had trouble with their bundt sticking to the pan, so I buttered and floured liberally and fortunately, didn't run into that issue.
I cut a tiny piece of my cake so I could try it before popping the rest in the freezer as a welcome home treat for Shane's parents, and I'm so glad I did. It was terrific! It's dense with a really tight crumb but very moist. I was a bit skeptical about the orange zest in the cake and how it would work with the flavors in the swirl, but it all melded wonderfully. Many thanks to Jennifer for hosting this week. You can find the recipe for the bundt on her blog or on page 182 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
Is it really Monday again already? I don't know about you guys, but this weekend flew by so quickly for me. You may have heard, frigid weather invaded the northeast (-15 to -25 F with the wind chill last night - eek!) so I spent a whole lot of time on the internet researching vacation ideas. Shane and I have been talking about a vacation for nearly 6 months so *hopefully* we'll make a decision soon. A week on the beach with warm, sunny weather and a fruity drink sounds seriously appealing right now. The rest of my weekend was spent in the kitchen (sports on the tv in the background of course, side note - the Australian Open is wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule with its 2 am matches but I can't help myself). I was super productive, whipping up a good mix of sweet and savory items. Among other things, I made these cranberry orange scones using a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa after realizing it's been way too long since I baked scones.
I quartered Ina's recipe because I didn't have anyone to share these with, and they're pretty rich with 3 sticks of butter and 4 eggs in a full batch. My mini batch yielded 4 reasonably-sized scones - perfect! I made the dough late one night and cut the scones, then froze them and baked them fresh the next morning. In my sleepy state I forgot the egg wash so they're a little pale in color, but they baked up beautifully otherwise and were really delicious regardless. Texturally, they're light and fluffy, and despite the richness, they're actually not very sweet. The addition of the glaze - a combination of confectioners' sugar and freshly squeezed orange juice - provided the extra touch of sweetness I needed. The combination of cranberries and orange is a good one, though I think you could easily substitute whatever dried fruit you happen to have on hand.
Cranberry Orange Scones
from Ina Garten (via FoodNetwork.com)
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 sticks (24 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 4 cups of the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest until combined. Add the butter and mix on low until the pieces of butter are about the size of peas. In a measuring cup, whisk together the eggs and heavy cream. With the mixer on low, slowly add the egg/cream mixture to the dough, beating just until incorporated. Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour in a small bowl, then add to the mixer and beat on low speed just until distributed.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape it into a ball. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough until it is 3/4-inch thick, turning the dough as you roll so you ensure it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round cutter and cut circles of dough. (Or, roll the dough into a square and use a knife to cut into square-shaped scones). Transfer scones to the prepared baking sheet. If necessary, collect the scraps, reroll them and cut more scones.
Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops have browned and are firm to the touch. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and let them cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the confectioners' sugar and orange juice together to make the glaze. Drizzle over the scones.
Makes about 16 scones
This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays was selected by my buddy Jeannette of Whimsical Cupcake: speakeasy. It's a fitting name given that the recipe is essentially a chocolate souffle cake that includes a healthy dose of brandy - 2/3 of a cup, in fact! Confession time - after checking out the recipe I almost decided to sit this one out. I've made enough of these chocolate souffle cakes (minus the alcohol) to know that I almost always feel like they're too rich for me. Also, I generally don't like to mix huge amounts of alcohol in with my baked goods; often I find that the alcohol overwhelms the other flavors. Neither of these reasons would be a big deal if I had someone to share the cake with, but I'm currently house sitting for Shane's parents while they're on vacation so I either need to freeze things or eat them myself for the next week.
All that said, we're nearing the end of our time with SMS so I'm trying to make as many of the recipes as possible. Luckily, this one scales pretty easily, which allowed me to quarter the recipe and bake my little cake in a 4.5-inch springform pan (versus the 8-inch pan called for). The batter consists of melted chocolate, butter, brandy, egg yolks, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt, which is lightened by folding in egg whites and sugar that have been whipped to stiff peaks. Having done the math to scale back the recipe, I knew I couldn't quite fit all of the batter in my pan, so I had a bit of leftover, which would have worked well in a ramekin had I been that motivated.
The baking time was somewhat tricky, as the recipe calls for baking the full size cake for 80-90 minutes, but not checking it until 70 minutes in, so you don't risk deflating the batter. I didn't know what the total baking time would be for my mini, and I had even less idea how long I had to wait to avoid deflating the batter. I wound up testing for the first time when the cake looked sufficiently risen and appeared to have a firm surface, about 20-22 minutes after I put it in the oven. The toothpick I inserted came out clean immediately so I pulled the cake, slightly worried I might have overbaked it.
I skipped the chocolate glaze in the recipe, figuring the cake would be plenty rich for me without it. The verdict? The cake surprised me, in a good way. It wasn't overly rich and though I could detect the brandy in the recipe, it wasn't overpowering. The chocolate and alcohol actually complemented one another nicely. It's still probably not the first dessert I'd choose in a line-up, but I won't have any problem eating my mini. Many thanks to Jeannette for hosting this week. You can find the recipe for the speakeasy cake on her blog or on pages 201-203 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
I don't pay much attention to what's trendy when it comes to food, but it would have been tough to miss the cupcake craze. Maybe cupcakes are still trendy, I don't really know, but I do know that they've climbed to the top of my list of favorite baked goods. It took me a while to come around; I used to think cupcakes were a pain since I had to make at least two components (even more if there was a filling!) and dirty quite a few dishes. They've won me over though - I love their portability, the possibilities for flavor combinations, the cuteness factor...I could go on and on. In other words, don't be surprised if I start rolling out more cupcakes here in the coming months :)
When I tasted one of these cupcakes for the first time, I was very glad I'd scaled back to only make 6 and given 4 of those away to friends, because I absolutely loved them. In all fairness, add white chocolate whipped cream to the top of anything and I'll eat it, but the cupcakes themselves were wonderful. You don't taste the coffee in the recipe, it really just enhances the chocolate and deepens its flavor. The cupcakes are moist and very light; the whipped cream is light too (in texture, certainly not in calories), though the addition of the white chocolate makes it more sturdy than whipped cream would typically be.
As I mentioned, I didn't run into any problems quartering the cake recipe so in case you don't want to make 24 cupcakes, it's definitely an option to scale back. The batter is fairly thin and runny - don't be too worried - the cupcakes bake up perfectly. I halved the whipped cream recipe so I'd have plenty to mound on the cupcakes (and enough leftover to eat a few spoonfuls myself :) ). I wouldn't have had enough to frost all 6 cupcakes if I'd quartered the whipped cream recipe so keep that in mind if you like lots of frosting. Whipped cream generally doesn't hold up very well in the fridge for me, so I wasn't sure how far in advance I could make it. What I wound up doing was making the whipped cream late one night, then leaving it in the fridge overnight with plastic against the surface. It was completely set the next day and not at all watery or runny. It piped nicely and held up well in the fridge on the cupcakes (just bring them to room temperature before serving).
Mocha Cupcakes with White Chocolate Whipped Cream
cupcakes adapted from Miss Cupcake Face, frosting from Baking: From My Home to Yours (as seen on Annie's Eats)
5 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups hot coffee
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave in 30 second bursts at 50% power, stirring in between, until melted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt together. In another medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, cocoa powder and baking soda to form a paste, then slowly whisk in the hot coffee until the mixture is smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla extract. Add the melted chocolate and beat to incorporate. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the liquid mixture (beginning and ending with the flour mixture), beating just until all ingredients are incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the white chocolate whipped cream: Place the chopped white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Melt, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. When the chocolate is fully melted, move the bowl to a work surface and pour in the hot cream. Let stand for 1 minute. Stir gently until the cream is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Let the chocolate/cream mixture stand until it is completely cool. The mixture must be at room temperature before it is added to the whipped cream.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream only until it holds the softest peaks. With the mixer on high speed, add the white chocolate all at once and continue to beat just until the mixture holds firm peaks. Transfer the cream to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Frost the cupcakes as desired. Store the frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator but serve at room temperature for best flavor.
Yields 24 cupcakes
This time of year I find myself craving comfort food for dinner every single night. Soups and stews, pasta dishes, anything roasted - it's all good in my book. We don't eat a lot of red meat, a grilled steak occasionally in the summer, but that's pretty much the extent of it. Lately, though, I've found myself drawn to the beef section every time I'm in the store. I picked up a chuck roast a few weeks ago and made a terrific pot roast recipe (which may eventually make it on here...) and then last weekend I couldn't resist a package of stew meat that was on sale. Nothing says winter to me like a cut of meat cooked low and slow in the oven over the course of an afternoon until it is so tender it simply melts in your mouth.
After scanning a ton of recipes to utilize my stew meat, I settled on this carbonnade from Cook's Illustrated. It's a Belgian beef, beer and onion stew and could not be more simple to make. The only veggies you'll need to chop are onions so there's not a lot of prep, and the only real hands-on cooking time is the effort spent browning the meat, which is well worth it for all of those delicious browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook's Illustrated recommends a copper-colored Beglian ale for the stew, which I confess I did not use this time as I didn't have it on hand. Even with a lesser beer, we still loved the stew. It's hearty and flavorful - part sweet, part sour - and let's not forget the amazingly tender beef. I served ours atop mashed potatoes and I highly recommend going that route, but egg noodles would also work.
Carbonnade: Belgian Beef, Beer and Onion Stew
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
3 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium), halved and sliced about 1/4-inch-thick (about 8 cups)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 cups beer (12-ounce bottle or can)
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, tied with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 300 F with a rack in the lower-middle position.
Pat the beef dry with paper towels, then season on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot. Add about 1/3 of the beef to the pot - don't crowd the meat, you want it to have space to brown properly. Brown for about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip the meat over and cook until the second side is well browned, about another 3 minutes. Transfer the beef to a bowl. Continue browning the rest of the meat in batches, adding 2 teaspoons of oil for each new batch of meat.
Once all the meat has been browned, reduce the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pot. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits, until the onions are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and stir to coat the onions. Cook until the flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth, scraping the bottom of the pan again to loosen any remaining browned bits. Add the beer, thyme, bay leaves, vinegar and beef (along with its accumulated juices) to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. When the stew reaches a simmer, cover the pot partially, then transfer to the oven. Cook until the beef is fork tender, about 2-3 hours.
Remove the thyme bundle and the bay leaves. Adjust seasonings to taste before serving.
The stew can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for 4 days.
Posted by Tracey Wilhelmsen at 8:40 AM
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Betsy of A Cup of Sweetness: lemon poppyseed muffins. As a general rule, I don't bake recipes from Dorie's book until they've been selected by someone in the group, but when I saw the pick for this week I was certain I'd made it in the past. I couldn't figure out why I would have whipped up lemon poppyseed muffins, since I'm not a fan of poppyseeds. But that's the beauty of blogging - I scanned back through old posts and it turns out I'm not crazy - I had made them! Way back in March of 2009, these muffins had been a treat for a friend's birthday.
I emailed the same friend to see if she'd want another batch of lemon poppyseed muffins if I made the recipe again this week. She said yes, and I got to work on Sunday morning. As I mentioned yesterday, we didn't have heat over the weekend (by the way, thanks for the kind words yesterday - we got the problem fixed so our heat is now working - hooray!) so I had dual motives: check the TWD recipe off my to-do list, but also warm up my very chilly house with a 400 degree oven. The muffins are quick and easy to throw together, the wet and dry ingredients are combined separately and then mixed together and into the oven they go. In fact, I got mine in the oven so quickly I didn't realize until they'd been baking for 5 minutes that I forgot the poppyseeds. Oops. A simple glaze of lemon juice and confectioners' sugar is drizzled on the muffins once they've cooled. Mine was on the thin side, but no less delicious.
The muffins are a nice breakfast treat, easy to grab on the go. I laughed when I read my post about the first time I made these as I mentioned I didn't like lemon-flavored treats, and now anything with lemon is a favorite. Funny how our tastes change over time, isn't it? Maybe someday I'll learn to like poppyseeds too :) Many thanks to Betsy for hosting this week. You can find the recipe for the muffins on her blog or on page 10 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
You'll have to forgive me if I seem a bit out of sorts today. It was a trying weekend around these parts. Saturday morning I awoke to find our heat wasn't working and, despite our best efforts, we haven't yet been able to resolve the problem. With temperatures dropping into the single digits for portions of the weekend, you can probably imagine it was a bit stressful. (Oh, and to add insult to injury, my beloved Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs on Sunday night.) Luckily, family and friends came to our rescue with space heaters to keep our rooms warm, food to keep our bellies full, and cute babies to keep our minds off our troubles. With any luck, the heating issue will be resolved today and we can put this weekend behind us. It's not very often that I look forward to Monday morning, but I've got high hopes for this one.
The weekend was so hectic that I didn't get a chance to bake the treat I'd hoped to share with you this morning; that one will have to wait for later in the week. Instead, I dug into my backlog of draft posts and pulled out these brownies, which are a very worthy back-up plan. I made these for Christmas day, since I knew Shane wouldn't be a fan of any of the other desserts we'd planned and we didn't want him to be without a dessert option. Like most brownies, these are quick and easy to whip up, incorporating pretty standard pantry ingredients. The best thing about them though is that they deliver everything you could possibly want in a brownie: a thin, papery crust on top that gives way to a rich brownie below, one that is chewy, fudgy and intensely chocolaty. Unlike a lot of recipes that include instant espresso powder, the espresso doesn't just serve to enhance the chocolate flavor here. You can definitely taste it in the brownies. I liked the flavor it added, but if you prefer your brownies more simply, just leave the espresso out entirely or reduce the quantity you use.
If we'd had any left, these brownies would have been the perfect remedy to our less than ideal weekend. Hopefully, instead, I can make another batch soon to celebrate the end of our furnace debacle :)
Triple-Chocolate Espresso Brownies
from Baking Illustrated
5 oz semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (8.75 oz) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the lower middle position. Spray an 8x8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposing sides so you can lift the brownies out easily once they're baked. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Add the semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, the unsweetened chocolate, and the butter to a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and, stirring occasionally, melt until everything is smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder and espresso until incorporated. Set the bowl aside so the mixture can cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the warm chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Finally, stir in the flour with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon just until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking ban, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake the brownies for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. (Do not over bake, or the brownies will dry out.) Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan. Use the foil to lift the brownies out of the pan and slice before serving.
We're not likely to forget the night we made this recipe anytime soon. It was the first time in our nearly three and half years in this house that we set off the smoke detectors. Yes, detectors, plural - the one in the basement, the one on the first floor (the level where the kitchen is located) and all three on the second floor decided to go off simultaneously. (I assume they're all connected so that when one goes off, they all do, but don't know for sure.) What I do know is that the two or three minutes it took Shane to run around silencing the shrill noise of five smoke detectors beeping in harmony was painfully long. I even resorted to opening the deck slider to let some fresh (read brrrr chilly, you can see your breath cold) air in. Looking on the bright side, I guess it's comforting to know there's absolutely no way we'll sleep through the smoke alarm were a fire to break out in the middle of the night!
I don't mean to deter you - this recipe was definitely a hit here. We eat chicken thighs with some regularity and the sauce served to elevate them to another level. I'm really not a fan of beer (I know, I know) or grainy mustard, and still, this sauce was addictive; it's part sweet, part tangy and really flavorful. We liked it so much we wound up spooning the extra over the rice I served with the chicken. I recommend running the fan on your stove while the chicken cooks (and covering the pan with a screen, if you have one), as there is a fair amount of splatter. We ran into trouble with the smoke detectors while the pan was in the oven so as an extra precaution you could open a window or door to circulate fresh air if it's not 10 degrees out where you live. Despite the drama, this is a definite repeat here; in fact, it's already on the menu for next week.
Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs w/Beer & Grainy Mustard Sauce
from Fine Cooking, December 2010/January 2011
8 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 medium shallots, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup amber lager (we used Amstel Light)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (plus more for garnish)
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 475 F, with a rack set in the lower third.
Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer. Cook until the skin is well browned, about 7 minutes. Flip the chicken and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast the chicken until it is cooked through - an instant read thermometer should register 170 F, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Add the shallots to the pan and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour until combined. Gradually add the beer, chicken stock, maple syrup and thyme, whisking frequently. Raise the heat to high, and bring the sauce to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer until the sauce reduces to about 1 cup (or to your desired consistency), about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the mustard and the butter, then season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, dip each chicken thigh in the sauce and turn to coat. Plate the chicken, then spoon additional sauce over the top and garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.
Sometimes when I step into my kitchen to cook or bake, it's about the process. Those are the days when I don't mind taking a complicated recipe, working on it slowly over the course of an afternoon and savoring each and every step along the way. The end result is oh so satisfying when I embark on an adventure like that. Other times, though, all I really want is to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible, or an even more likely scenario - a craving for sweets hits that I need to satisfy asap. These cookies definitely fall into the latter category. They were in my oven within 10 minutes of me deciding I wanted a chocolate-peanut butter treat - nearly instant gratification in my book.
Now only are these quick and easy, but they're delicious. Soft and tender, with just a bit of texture from the oats, and packed with peanut butter and chocolate flavor. I tried baking them a few different ways - chilling the dough before baking, for example - to see if there would be a noticeable difference in texture or appearance, but I didn't find that to best the case. The only real "trick" is not to over bake the cookies. Be sure to pull them out when the edges are just set, even if the centers look soft and underdone. They will continue cooking on the baking sheets and when cool, will be perfect.
Happy Friday! Hope you bake some cookies to start your weekend off on a sweet note :)
Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Brown Eyed Baker
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy and pale in color, about 3-4 minutes. Add the egg to the bowl and beat to combine. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Use a large cookie scoop (3 tablespoons or about 1.7 oz per ball) and drop dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown, their edges are just set and the centers are still puffy. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheets.
Makes 16 large cookies
There are plenty of reasons why I hate winter - days that run out of sunshine by 4 pm, being cold ALL the time, heating bills, being stuck inside - I could go on and on. For all its downsides, though, winter has one redeeming quality - snow days! As an adult, waking up to find a ton of snow has fallen while I slept makes me excited the way discovering Santa had come overnight did when I was a kid. I can't get enough of it. The shoveling does get a bit tiresome but it's a small price to pay for the joy of a snow day, in my opinion.
You'll understand, then, why yesterday was a fantastic day. A massive storm dumped about a foot and a half of snow on us; it was like hitting the snow jackpot! Even better, Shane got the day off of work because the roads were quite dangerous so we found ourselves with a mini weekend in the middle of the week. We had fun watching the snow fall when we woke up and later playing in it (after we'd done the hard work of shoveling, of course). In between, there were tv shows and movies to be watched, comforting meals to be eaten, photos to be taken and, to no one's surprise, baking to be done. I had leftover pumpkin lingering in the fridge from last week's oatmeal, so using that up was the top priority. I ruled out cookies, muffins, and pie before settling on a yeast bread.
This recipe originally comes from King Arthur Flour, though I stuck closely to Annie's adaptation when I made it. The recipe makes two loaves and instead of leaving them both plain, I decided to add a cinnamon swirl inside one of the loaves, which I thought would work well with the pumpkin. The other change I made was a result of discovering I didn't have enough bread flour for the recipe. I subbed all-purpose for about 2 1/2 cups of the 6 1/2 in the recipe, and still wound up with a wonderfully soft, just ever-so-slightly sweet bread. I preferred the loaf with the swirl (you can't go wrong with more cinnamon and sugar) but they were both delicious. The bread toasts well and is a real treat topped with even more cinnamon sugar :) I suspect it'll make great french toast too, so I've got my fingers crossed for another snow day soon which will be the perfect occasion to try it out.
Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Yeast Bread
adapted from Annie's Eats (who adapted it from King Arthur Flour)
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
2/3 cup warm milk (~100 F)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons canola (or vegetable) oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
6 1/2 cups bread flour (approximately)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Add the water and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly to combine. Add the milk, eggs, pumpkin, oil, brown sugar, salt, and spices and beat until the mixture is uniform, about 30 seconds. Add 4 cups of the flour to the mixer bowl, and beat until the flour is incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add enough of the remaining flour as is necessary to create a dough that is smooth and elastic. (I let my mixer do most of the work then kneaded by hand for the last few minutes - when you've finished, the dough should no longer be sticky). Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (On cold days, before I start making the dough I preheat my oven to 170 F then turn it off and let the dough rise in the warm oven.)
While the dough rises, make the filling by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Also, spray two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Press (or roll) each half into a rectangle about that is about 18 x 9 inches. Brush each half with the melted butter then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Starting with a short side, roll each rectangle of dough tightly into a cylinder, pinching the seam closed when you get to the end. Place the loaves in the prepared loaf pans, seam side down. Press down gently so the dough touches all four sides of the pan. Cover each pan with a piece of plastic wrap (or a towel) and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Toward the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a loaf reads 190 F. Immediately remove the loaves from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
Makes two loaves
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Margot of Effort to Deliciousness: fluff-filled chocolate madeleines. A madeleine pan was one of the first "specialty" pans (something other than a cake or muffin pan) I bought when I started baking but it just doesn't get that much use so I'm glad Margot chose this recipe. Plus, though I don't eat it much these days, I used to love a good peanut butter and fluff sandwich, so there was a bit of nostalgia involved in pulling the jar of fluff out of my pantry when it was time to whip these up.
This is an easy batter to put together and the process can be split up over a few days, as Dorie recommended chilling the batter for the madeleines before filling the pans and baking them. I've seen other recipes call for this fridge time as well; it's supposed to help the madeleines develop their characteristic hump. The problem I ran into here was that the batter was difficult to work with after being chilled and I had a hard time judging how much to put in the wells. My first madeleines were tiny, and the next set were giant. I wonder if maybe it might be easier to portion the batter into the pans first, then chill and bake? I'll probably give it a try next time I make this recipe. After hearing from some of my TWD friends that it was tough to fill the madeleines, I wound up skipping that step and just dipped them in the ganache and piped a little fluff on top. The flavor definitely reminded me of Hostess cupcakes, though maybe not as chocolate-y and a little more dense. Not a new favorite, but a tasty breakfast treat to be sure!
Many thanks to Margot for hosting this week! She and I have been baking together in a few different groups for several years and we've also exchanged goodies through the mail via Secret Baker; she totally rocks so stop by her blog and say hi :) You can find the recipe for the madeleines on her blog or on pages 170-171 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.
You may have noticed that I talk about scaling back recipes all the time. With only two people in the house to feed, it's essential that I scale, especially given the amount of baking I do. I've had generally good results taking standard recipes and cutting them in half or just making 1/4, but sometimes it gets tricky and often there's a lot of estimating involved (yep, that looks close enough to .713 cups of flour...). Weighing ingredients can solve some problems, but not all cookbooks provide weights in their recipes, and I'm not always motivated to do the conversions myself. Anyway, all of this is just a long-winded way of explaining why I was super excited to find this recipe for molten chocolate cake for two in my new issue of America's Test Kitchen magazine.
The recipe makes just enough batter for two small chocolate cakes - the perfect afternoon snack for a Sunday spent mostly on the couch under a blanket watching playoff football games! While the instructions specified two 6-oz ramekins, I discovered that half of my ramekins didn't specify size so I grabbed one that did but was 7-oz and one unmarked one that looked slightly smaller, which I hoped might be 6-oz. In other words, don't fret if you don't have 6-oz ramekins, just pick something close. I may have been a bit lazy on buttering the ramekins so one of my cakes stuck. Fortunately, even an ugly molten chocolate cake is really delicious :) The outside of the cake is light but sturdy, and yields to a gooey, rich chocolate center. These are so easy to whip up (and feature ingredients you likely keep on hand anyway); I know they'll be making a repeat appearance here before long.
One other order of business today - it's time to announce the winners of my Avec Eric giveaway! Thanks to everyone who entered; it was fun to read about your favorite/dream travel destinations. Many, many people mentioned Paris and Italy, both of which are on my "hope to get there someday" lists :)
Congratulations to commenter #21, Margaret (TeaLady) of Tea and Scones,
commenter #79, Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook, and
commenter #116, Danielle of All Things Yummy!
Hope you all enjoy the book!
Molten Chocolate Cakes for Two
from America's Test Kitchen
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
cocoa powder (for the ramekins)
confectioners' sugar (for dusting, optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Generously butter two 6-oz ramekins and dust them with cocoa powder.
Place the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted and smooth. I like to do 30-second bursts at 50% power and stir in between each. In total, it'll probably take about 1 1/2 - 3 minutes, depending on your microwave. Stir in the vanilla.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg with a hand mixer on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the egg forms soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Still beating, gradually add the sugar and salt. Once incorporated, beat for another 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and pale yellow in color.
Use a rubber spatula to transfer the egg mixture to the bowl containing the melted butter and chocolate. Sift the flour over the top, then use a rubber spatula to gently fold everything together, just until incorporated.
Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins, smoothing the tops with your spatula. Put the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the cakes have puffed slighty and jiggle just a bit in the center when gently shaken. Immediately upon removing the cakes from the oven, run a knife around the edges of the ramekins. Invert the ramekins onto serving plates and let them sit for about 1 minute or so, until the cakes release from the ramekins. Remove the ramekins and, if using, dust the cakes with confectioners' sugar then serve immediately.