Saturday, December 12, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers Creme Brulee- A Little Late

The Early November Challenge from the Barefoot Bloggers was Ina's Creme Brulee from Barefoot In Paris. I was all ready for making it last month, right on schedule, then I found out that my torch (to caramelize the topping) didn't come with any butane. So out we went on a search for butane, finally finding it at a kitchen shop outlet store miles from our house. Then Thanksgiving came, and with it all the cooking craziness, and it got pushed back again.

Today I finally made it. It was a success from the get-go, easy and as good, if not better, than any I've had in any restaurant. You can find the recipe here. Buy the torch (and some butane) and have at it! It is really a great special dessert for a nice dinner, and not that hard. Just leave some time for the cooling and chilling.

It's not a low calorie dessert, though. I figure it at about 900 calories a portion! So save it for a special occasion, or enjoy it on an otherwise low-calorie day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Latest Adventures of Chicken Mama!

I have 13 hens in my chicken coop, and on Sunday I got a Grand Slam-- 13 eggs! Organic eggs from happy chickens. Doesn't get much better than that!

Then on Monday I think an alien chicken invaded my coop. In addition to 8 regular sized eggs, I got a mini egg, a little larger than a robin's egg. I don't know how I'll cook it yet, sunny side up? If I scramble it, it would fill a thimble-- maybe. (Grin.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daring Bakers French Macaroons

The October Daring Bakers Challenge was French Macarons or Macaroons. French macaroons are very different from what Americans think of as macaroons-- a chewy, mostly coconut cookie. These are a combination of ground almonds, egg whites, sugar and flavorings, sandwiched with a filling of our choice. They are light, like angel kisses.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I ground the almonds in my food processor, then added the confectioners sugar and ground them again, to get the "almond flour" as fine as I could. The cookies are baked in two stages-- once at a low temperature for just a few minutes to dry the bottom of the cookie, then at a higher temperature for the remaining time. This results in a "foot" that doesn't rise as much as the rest of the cookie, which creates the distinctive macaroon shape.

I made the cookie recipe with no added flavors (flavors or zests were optional) and filled them with a chocolate almond ganache. The cookies at first were a contrast in textures-- a crispy cookie and a creamy chocolate filling. But as they sat, the cookie softened to a texture that just dissolved in my mouth. Yum!

You can find the recipe and directions for the cookies here.


Confectioners’ sugar: 2 ¼ cups

Almond flour: 2 cups

Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons

Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl.

If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip. You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F. Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

The ganache recipe follows:

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 Cup heavy cream, scalded

1/4 tsp almond extract

Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the hot scalded cream over the chocolate and mix until blended. Add the almond extract, and mix to blend. Chill until the ganache is thick enough to spread, then put a liberal amount between each pair of macaroons.

The recipe made about 2 dozen filled cookies for me-- I must have made them larger than the directions called for. But they were delicious nonetheless!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beatty's Cake, Redux

I was telling a friend about Beatty's cake (that I made for Barefoot Bloggers in September) and she requested that I bring it to our Dirty Dozen Garden Club covered dish get-together tomorrow. So I made it again, and of course it turned out not quite as pretty as the last time. (Things only turn out pretty when I basically just make it for us to eat, not when I'm bringing it somewhere.)

I hope it tastes as good as the last time, since I've been raving about it being the best chocolate cake I've ever tasted. (I find most chocolate cakes to be dry and one-dimensional as far as the flavor is concerned.)

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beatty's Chocolate Cake, Barefoot Bloggers September

When we taste most things we try, we say, " this is a keeper" or "not so good." After this cake, we said, "Oooh! This is really good!"

The Barefooot Bloggers late September recipe was Beatty's Chocolate Cake, from Barefoot Contessa At Home. Go here for the recipe.

This was a pretty straightforward recipe for a dark chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream frosting. The thing that makes it different, that makes it "over the top," is the undertone of coffee. This is moist, sweet and delicious! And complex-- lots going on there. This is definitely a keeper.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jan's Corn Muffins

The cornbread I usually make for the Harvestfest, while good, is very labor-intensive. So I'm determined to find an alternative that I can add/substitute next year to make the Saturday before the Harvestfest a little less stressful. I liked these, but they probably won't be a general favorite. (I like breads with a little more complexity to them than the typical white-bread lover does.) They are from The Dairy Hollow House Cookbook, by Crescent Dragonwagon.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


  • 1 egg

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)


  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar

Pour the buttermilk/vinegar mixture into the egg/honey/oil mixture.


  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1Tbsp baking powder

  • 1 cup cornmeal

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

Add dry ingredients to moist ones, stir just enough to combine. Fill 12 Pam-ed muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I spent the day making 10 pounds of bean soup and 8 loaves of cornbread. The cornbread is from Crescent Dragonwagon and the Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread Cookbook. I've been making it for years, and it is my go-to cornbread for our Harvestfest and any soup suppers that include bean soup.

3 Tbsp butter

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup canola or other mild vegetable oil

3 T sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/4 tsp baking soda in the buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Measure out the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, and stir to combine.

In a second, smaller bowl, mix the oil, sugar and egg until blended.

In a third bowl, add the baking soda to the buttermilk, and mix to combine.

In an 8- or 9-inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter over med high heat. While the butter melts, pour the buttermilk mixture into the oil mixture until blended, then add the liquids to the dry ingredients, mixing with a whisk just until blended. (Don't overmix!)

With a spatula, scrape the cornbread batter into the the sizzling melted butter in the skillet, and immediately put into the oven. Bake at 375 degress for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand for 3 minutes, then cover the skillet with a large plate and turn the cornbread out onto the plate. Let cool and serve, or overwrap with foil while still slightly warm.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Daring Cooks September Challenge

The Daring Cooks Challenge this month was to make a vegan, gluten free main dish (or appetizer, depending on the size we made) of Indian dolmas with a chickpea filling and coconut curry sauce. Check out the recipe and directions here.

I made the dish in reverse, starting with the sauce. I combined the garlic and onions with the spices and cooked tham until they were soft and fragrant. I added the flour (I used buckwheat in place of the spelt, since I knew I would never use the rest of the bag of spelt and I would use buckwheat flour for buckwheat pancakes-- the idea was to be gluten free and buckwheat flour fills this requirement) and cooked it with the vegetables and spices to make a roux, then added the vegetable broth and coconut milk and stirred to make a smooth sauce. I added the tomatoes and simmered for 30 minutes. The resulting sauce was fragrant and looked just like the picture in the directions from Debyi who chose the recipe. Woo-hoo! One down and two to go!

Next I tackled the filling. I cooked the chopped vegetables with the garlic and spices until it had cooked down into a thick filling. (I substituted jalapeno peppers for the Hungarian mediums hot ones called for, since that is what I had in my garden.) I added the mashed chickpeas (I mashed them by hand so that some texture of the chickpeas would remain) and the tomato paste and cooked it all until thick.

Then I made the dosas, which are like buckwheat crepes. (I used soy milk.) Some of the Daring Bakers had trouble with these, but mine came out beautifully whole and perfectly cooked. Three for three! High five!

I put them all together and plated them, and took their glamour shot, and then we dug in. The resulting dish was... filling.

Beautiful, but bland.

Fragrant, but disappointing.

The sauce, which had 2 cups of coconut milk in it, had no flavor at all. The filling, which had minced jalapeno peppers in it, had no heat at all. It tasted good, but really was not the spicy dish we were expecting from the wonderful smells coming from my kitchen all afternoon.

Maybe it would have improved over night, as many tomato-based dishes do, but I dumped the rest without taking up the space in the fridge to find out. Not one of my better results.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers September

Well, this month marks my first foray into another online cooking group: The Barefoot Bloggers. (I know, I know, like I need another excuse to cook more goodies!) This group makes dishes from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, and you all should know by now that she is in contention for my favorite Food Network cook, along with Giada and Tyler. So, without further ado we have her Birthday Sheet Cake from Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

This recipe made me aware for the first time that the pan I have always assumed was a sheet cake pan, probably isn't, as the batter went up, up, up and over the sides of the pan into the bottom of my oven, where it began to smoke. It didn't set off the smoke alarm, thank Goodness.

The recipe was pretty straightforward and easy. The resulting combination of flavors of the lemony cake and the deep chocolate frosting will never be my favorite, but I have to admit, the combination is growing on me. The frosting is a chocolate lover's dream, though, and I think I'll try it on a chocolate cake next time, because it is so easy and good.

Monday, September 7, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons...

...or, in this case, mealy textured peaches, make Peach Blueberry Crumbles!

We were out and about in the Amish Country last week and stopped at a roadside market for some fresh peaches. The ones they had for sale were marked "Jersey Peaches." The sad fact is that the peach crop in Eastern Ohio was wiped out by the late cold snaps we had, and Jersey peaches were all that they were carrying for sale. But my husband loves a good fresh peach, so we gave them a try. Disappointed doesn't even touch the feeling he had when he took the first bite. So, what to do with the peaches so they didn't have to be thrown away...

I went to Google and typed in "peach recipe" and up popped Peach & Blueberry Crumbles, from Barefoot Contessa at Home. Bingo! Peaches, blueberries and Ina Garten, my favorite TV cook. It doesn't get much better than that.


For the fruit

  • 6-8 fresh peaches
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

For the Crumble

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First I plunged the peaches into boiling water in my blancher for 30 seconds, then into ice water to loosen the skins, which peeled away easily. I sliced them into thick wedges and placed them in a bowl with the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar and flour, and tossed them well. Then I gently mixed in the blueberries, and let the fruit mixture sit for 5 minutes before dividing it up evenly among 6 ramekins. (mine were 7 ounce size-- 8 ounce would have been better.)

Then I made the topping by combining the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter and working it into a sandy crumble with my fingers, and sprinkled it evenly over the fruit in the ramekins.

I put the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and baked them for 40 minutes until the tops were brown and crisp and the juices were bubbly. I cooled them slightly and served them with a generous scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge Dobos Torte

Well, this month's Daring Bakers Challenge was less than a success for this Daring Baker.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

I began this challenge by making a yummy chocolate buttercream frosting, which turned out great! I put it in the refrigerator to chill.

Then I made 6 thin layers of sponge cake and let them cool. Here is where the trouble began. I got a little bit of egg yolk in the egg whites and they didn't get light and fluffy when I whipped them. So instead of 6 layers of spong cake, I got, well, 6 layers of sponge. Very chewy, not at all light. It made the cake more like 6 crepes with buttercream in between the layers-- not that there is anything wrong with that. I happen to like crepes. But I don't think that's the result the recipe creator had in mind.

The third part was a caramel topping to add to the top layer of sponge cake. I really don't know what happened to that. I followed the directions exactly, but I ended up with a hard caramel, like a hard candy. Why anyone would put that on top of a cake, I don't know. I tried it, but there was no way it could be chewed. So I removed it and added more buttercream and chopped hazelnuts to the top. It was definitely tasty, though chewy.

Here is the recipe:

Sponge cake layers

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)
4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bread Pudding (Made with Challah)

At the Main Street Farmers' Market in Washington, PA, held every Thursday from 3-6 PM, The Wood Street Bread Company sells the most wonderful challah. It is a huge glossy braided loaf that the two of us cannot eat all of before it gets moldy-- it's made with no preservatives added. I usually take half of the loaf to work, where it gets eaten with no problem. This week I decided to freeze some cubes of challah to make bread pudding, and I am really glad I did. Yum-O! as one famous cook would say.
Here's the recipe:
1 # challah, cubed
8 lg eggs
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups sugar (white, brown or a combination of the two)
1 Tbsp good vanilla extract
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup raisins (or dried cherries)

Butter a 9x13 baking dish or spray with cooking spray.
Combine everything but the bread and raisins and mix well.
Add the bread and mix in, then the raisins.
Pour into the buttered dish and refrigerate 2 hours, or overnight.
When ready to bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake uncovered 1 hour and 15 minutes. (A knife inserted in the middle should come out clean.)
Serve warm or cold, with whipped cream if you want it really over the top.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Snap Pea Harvest

On June 17th, somewhere between 8 and 9 PM, an 8-minute hailstorm preceeded by torrential rains destroyed my vegetable gardens, hosta collector's garden, and perennial borders. (Not to mention the roof of my house, garden shed, and chicken coop and the screens on the back side of my house, the security light and fascia above my garage.) We are still working on the clean up and negotiating with insurance adjusters, but yesterday I harvested my 2009 snap pea crop. This is the entire crop, pictured here.
"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger!"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge for June: Bakewell Tart

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I followed the directions all the way on this one, and my tart was less than successful. The flavor was wonderful, but the tart, while browned almost too much on the outside, was still runny on the inside.
I used peach/blueberry jam from a vendor at my local Farmers Market instead of making an entire batch of jam just to have a cup to use for this recipe.
I'll try the recipe again, to see if I can detect any mistakes I made on this one, but I just don't think it worked for me as it should have. I've checked out other Daring Bakers' posts (just enter "daring bakers bakewell tart" into your search engine of choice) and the ones most of the bakers made came out baked through and cookie-like. (Check out this beautiful one and get the recipe and directions there while you are at it.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge: Pot Stickers

This month's Daring Cooks Challenge was to make pot stickers. My husband was really happy with this challenge, since he loves pot stickers. (The gnocchi last month, not so much.) They took a little longer to make than I thought. I started at 2:30 figuring I could serve them for dinner at 5:30-- well dinner was about an hour late, but they were worth the wait. Everything was easy, but rolling out and pleating 36 little dumplings was a time-consuming process. I cooked half for dinner and I'm going to try to freeze the rest for another meal.

The filling included ground pork, chopped shrimp, minced green onions, minced gingerroot, sesame oil, cornstarch and salt. Luckily I rechecked the recipe right before I began to fill the dumplings and realized I had forgotten the chopped water chestnuts (you'll notice they are not in the ingredient photo.)

The dough was a basic flour and water mixture, formed into little disks and rolled out into thin rounds about 3-4 inches across. The filling is spooned onto the middle of the dough round, and then the edges are brought together and pleated into little pockets.

After the dumplings were formed they were cooked. The options for cooking included steaming (I did mine in a bamboo steamer) and pan frying. I did some both ways, being certain that I would prefer the pan-fried ones, since this is the way I had always had them cooked in the past. It turns out that I liked the steamed ones better! The flavors seemed fresher and brighter and they didn't seem quite as heavy as the pan fried version.I made a simple dipping sauce from soy sauce, red wine vinegar and sesame oil, and we managed to eat all 17 of the ones I cooked. And they were good! This recipe is definitely a keeper!Here is the recipe:

shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough:
Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water

Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes.

Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side .Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cream Colored Ponies and Crisp Apple Streudels

The May Daring Bakers Challenge is apple streudel! This was a tasty challenge, and not as complicated as the recipe/directions made it seem like it would be. It actually went together quite smoothly for me.
The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

The dough was a simple mixture of flour, salt, water, oil and a touch of cider vinegar. I mixed it in my Kitchenaid mixer and then kneaded it for a while by hand. The directions say to knead it on an unfloured surface, but I needed a little flour to keep it from sticking. (Otherwise the only way to knead it on the second stroke was to scrape it off the counter with my dough scraper. )

After the dough rested, covered, for 90 minutes, I rolled it out on a floured tablecloth until it was very large and thin. The dough was soft and elastic, and rolled pretty well without tearing. I couldn't get it to be quite as large as the directions called for, so my strudle was a little shorter and fatter than it should have been. I covered it first with melted butter, then a layer of toasted bread crumbs. These act as a separator to keep the layers of dough from sticking together, allowing air to get between them to make them flaky.
I covered the crumb layer with a layer of walnuts, then the mixture of apples, rum-soaked raisins, cinnamon and sugar. The filling isn't heavily sweetened, and this results in a lighter, fresher taste than a pie would have.

The dough stretched over the filling easily without tearing. Then I used the tablecloth to roll the streudel over itself, maying layers of pastry as it rolled. I rolled it right onto the parchment-lined baking pan. No muss, no fuss.
I brushed melted butter on the outside of the roll and popped it into the oven.

It came out crusty and golden. I brushed it with a glaze of confectioners sugar, water and vanilla to make it shiny.

When it was still warm, I had a bite. Very good, light and flaky.

The recipe says it is best eaten right away, and that is my only complaint about the resulting streudel. It was very good immediately after I took it from the oven and it cooled to just warm. Later that night when we actually ate some for dessert, it had begun to get soggy, and the next day it was very soggy! But the flavor was still wonderful! So if you are making it for guests, don't make this one ahead. An hour or two before you serve it would be my suggestion.

Here is the recipe:

Apple strudel from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum

3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs

strudel dough (recipe below)

1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts

2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking-- I used Granny Smiths)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel doughfrom “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed

2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chicken Mama

I am now a chicken mama. 26 balls of fluff arrived on Monday at my Post Office. God bless small town post offices, the postmaster lady had covered the box up with her coat to keep them warm.

They are happily eating, drinking and pooping in their temporary quarters (a shallow stock trough borrowed from a friend.) This weather has been a challenge-- they are supposed to be kept at 95 degrees for the first week, but with the weather varying from 70's during the day to 30's at night, it's hard to get it to stay at that temperature. It gets to be 70 at night and 110 during the day. Probably not good, but what do I know? I'm new at this. Luckily, so are they.

I have 25 (female, I hope) Buff Orpingtons and one freebie, which is probably a Polish. It is gray with a yellow pom pom on its head-- a strange looking one, to be sure. I am raising them for the eggs, mostly. I may cull some out this fall if it looks like I have too many to overwinter, but that's really not the purpose at this point. I'll keep you posted on the continuing saga of "Chicken Mama."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day May 2009

Have I got the "blues"? Well, this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, that's a good thing. Check out the veronica (left photo) and centaurea (AKA mountain bluet) on the right. Don't they just knock your socks off?

My garden seems to be between flushes of flowers at the moment. The early spring is a blaze of daffodils of many colors, sizes and shapes. Then the late spring is a mixture of peonies and irises. Right now, the herbaceous peonies are just budded, waiting for the sun to open them, and just a few iris are blooming, with more waiting in the wings. Tree peonies are beginning to put on a show now, along with veronica, centaurea, the early geraniums, and a giant allium or two.
Buttercups, though they can be a nuisance, are bright and cheery right now. Chives are blooming, and lily of the valley puts out fragrant bells in the dry shade in front of my house.
Also in bloom are the Stewartsonian azalea and the spirea (just past their prime). The Exbury azalea, in a sherbet yellow color, is in full glory.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Ever! Daring Cooks Challenge. Ricotta Gnocchi

Ladies and Gentlemen! I give you... drum roll, please... the first ever Daring Cooks Challenge!

You know about the Daring Bakers. I've blogged about all the yummy sweet and savory things I've baked with them for the past year or so.

But now there's a new wrinkle. The Daring Bakers have become part of the Daring Kitchen, and the other part is The Daring Cooks. And, since I had nothing better to do with the spare 15 minutes a week I have, I decided to do that, too. (Am I crazy, or what?)

The first ever challenge is Ricotta Gnocchi. (The recipe is from Judy Rogers and the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.) I never even made potato gnocchi, so this was all new to me. The ricotta was supposed to be fresh, rather than the kind from the grocery in the plastic tub. But, as you know, I don't live near a grocery store that has ever heard of fresh ricotta, and I really am too strapped for time this month to make my own. (I will try that some time soon, though.) So, I used the tub of ricotta, and hoped for the best.

The first step was to drain the ricotta overnight to get as much of the liquid out as possible. The next day I added two lightly beaten cold eggs to the ricotta mixture, and a tablespoon of melted butter (not margarine--eww!) Then I added some freshly grated nutmeg (just a pinch or two) and 1/2 ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated. The batter was soft, like grainy egg custard. I must not have got as much of the moisture out of the ricotta as I was supposed to. About now I was beginning to have my doubts about my chances of success with gnocchi.

I tried to take a small spoonful of it and roll it in flour as directed. Imagine dropping a spoonful of custard into a pile of flour and rolling it into a dumpling shape. It came out as a shapeless lumpy pile of mush, but I cooked a trial one, thinking maybe it would magically get solid as it cooked. Ha! It dissolved into the water, which now looked as though I had poached some eggs and removed them from the pan, and had the little squiggles of egg white still floating in the water. I dug out the cooked mush and tasted it-- it was really good! But the texture and shape needed a lot of work.

I tried adding egg white, as the recipe suggested, and that just made everything wetter. I chilled the mixture, but then I just had cold grainy egg custard. Thank Heaven for the Daring Baker blog-- some other folks had ended up with a wet dough, and had added some flour. I added 1/2 cup of sifted all purpose flour and Bingo! The dumplings rolled out of the flour looking like gnocchi. I cooked a test gnocchi, and found that it held together beautifully and still tasted wonderful, but was a little more dense-- which suited me just fine, since I like pasta to be a little more al dente than mushy.

I chilled them for an hour or so (more like three hours actually) and then cooked half of them, and served them with a garlic butter sauce. Yum! The rest I froze, and I'll have them with pesto sauce at another meal.

Here is the recipe:

For the gnocchi:
1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers April Challenge: Cheesecake!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I love cheesecake! I've made it before, but always the baked in a pie pan shortcut version. I love that cheesecake, too. But the Daring Bakers never do anything the short-cut way. This was the bake-in-a-springform pan with a water bath, honest-to-god cheesecake. We had to follow the recipe for the cake, but we could add our own touch with the flavorings in the cake and with the topping.

I wanted to take it as a dessert for my friends in my garden club this past weekend, and I wanted the dessert to have a fresh spring flavor, so I made a blueberry/orange sauce and added orange liqueur to the cake as a flavoring. The result was yummy and light for a cheesecake. My friends said I would have won the prize for best dessert-- if there was a prize.

Here is the recipe:

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:


2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs

1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted

2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract


3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature

1 cup / 210 g sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)

1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (I used Triple Sec)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Blueberry/Orange Sauce

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups water

3 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2T Triple Sec (or Grand Marnier)

1 Tbsp orange zest

2 cups blueberries, washed and checked for stems

1 1/2 Tbsp butter (optional)


1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, water, orange juice, liqueur and zest. Cook, stirring often, until thickened (about 5 minutes).

2. Stir in the blueberries and cook mixture until the berries burst, about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and add the butter if using. Let cool, then spread over the cheesecake, or serve as a sauce on the side.