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the urban baker

the urban baker: June 2010

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Comfort Food - Mac 'n Cheese

June Gloom = comfort food.  As much as I want to start grilling, do the Mediterranean thing, eat clean, this weather just doesn't promote it.  So instead, whipped up some mac n cheese.  I have made numerous mac 'n cheese recipes over the years.  Some good, some not so good.  This one is GOOD!  Again, another winner from Saveur.  I changed it a bit, the end result was creamy, savory and one of the best mac's we have ever eaten.

four cheese mac + cheese
original recipe from Saveur (here)
serves 6-8

8 oz. elbow macaroni
3 slices of crust less stale bread
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 shallots, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups milk
7 oz grated Gruyere
10 oz. English cheddar, grated
6 oz. Velveeta, cubed ( I know, I had the same reaction)
1 oz. goat cheese
kosher salt and pepper

• pre heat oven to 375*
• bring a 4-quart sauce pan of water to a boil.  add a big pinch of kosher salt.  add noodles and cook until cooked halfway - about 3 minutes.  drain and set aside.
• tear bread, and process in food processor.  process until ground.  set a small sauce pan over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of butter.  add bread crumbs and stir until combined.  set aside.
• in another saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add the paprika, shallots, bay leaf; cook until shallots are soft.  add flour and cayenne and stir until thick.  whisk in milk and cook until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes.  remove pan from the heat.
• stir in the cheddar, 5 oz of Gruyere, Velveeta and the goat cheese, stir until smooth.  stir in the pasta and season with salt and pepper.  transfer mixture to a buttered oval baking dish.  sprinkle the top with the remaining Gruyere and then top with the bread crumbs.
• place baking pan on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
• let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brownie Perfection

I love reading my friend, Patricia's blog; Technicolor Kitchen.  Her photos are flawless, her recipes are mouth watering and her content is inspiring.  When she posted the "best cocoa brownies"  I immediately ran into the kitchen to make these.  After reading the ingredients, I knew they were going to be perfection so I decided to double the recipe.  I baked them in a 10" x 15 pan rather than an 8" pan.  In my opinion, they were the perfect thickness.  As I was cutting these, they were disappearing.  A single recipe recipe just isn't enough!

Best Cocoa Brownies
inspired by Technicolor Kitchen

10 Tbls. unsalted butter
1 1/4 (250g) cups sugar - we both used vanilla sugar*
3/4 cup + 2 Tbls (80g) unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch process)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup (70g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (74g) pecan pieces (optional)

• preheat oven to 325*
• line the bottom and sides of an 8" square baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang.  butter the parchment.
• in a medium heatproof bowl, add the butter and set on top of a large sauce pan with barely simmering watter.  melt the butter, then add the sugar and salt, stir until combined.  next, add the cocoa powder and stir until smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.  remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm.
• stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.  add the eggs one at at time, stirring vigorously after each one.  when the batter is thick, shiny and well blended add the flour until you cannot see it, then beat vigorously  with a wooden spoon.  if using, stir in the nuts.
• bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly moist with batter.  let cool completely
• once cool, set in fridge for an hour (this makes cutting much easier).  lift up the ends of the parchment and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.  cut into 2" squares on bite size 1" squares.

hide a few and save for a rainy day.

* to make vanilla sugar: fill a small jar with sugar.  scrape the seeds from 1 vanilla bean and stir seeds into the sugar.  add the pod to the sugar and mix in.  seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place.  vanilla sugar can last indefinitely.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Caramel Bread Pudding

This dish is so good that I had to hold my self back from eating the entire dish.  A new Sunday morning favorite has just arrived.  I inevitably always have left over Challah.  We start our weekend, each Friday night by celebrating Shabbat dinner, thus having Challah.  Eli usually gets egg in the hole on Saturday mornings, Isaac and Levi like it toasted with a little cinnamon butter smeared on top and sometimes I make croutons or bread crumbs with the left overs.  

Last night, I was watching an episode of Nigella Lawson.  She was making a caramel croissant bread pudding.  Bingo.  I was inspired to use up our challah and make something similar for breakfast.  I changed it a bit yet I am sure the results are just as good as the original!  

Caramel-Challah Bread Pudding
adapted from nigella lawson (original recipe here )
yield: 4-6 servings

1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbls. water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 milk
2 eggs
1 tps. vanilla
pinch of fleur de sel
handful of chocolate chips ( I used bittersweet)
handful of slivered almonds - toasted
stale bread - enough to cover an 8 x 8 porcelain baking dish

• preheat oven to 350*.  butter an 8 x 8 porcelain baking dish
• put water and sugar in a heavy duty pan.  swirl a bit to combine.  place over medium high heat and caramelize the sugar.  the mixture will start to bubble.  don't walk away, this process happens very fast.  you want the mixture to turn a light amber color.
• take the pan off the heat and slowly pour in the cream, little by little, whisking as you pour.  once combined add the milk.  let the mixture cool a bit.
• while the mixture is cooling, butter your baking dish.  cut up your challah and scatter in pan.  add chocolate chips.  set aside
• add milk to cooled caramel.  add eggs and whisk quickly.  add a pinch of fleur de sel.  pour over bread and submerge the custard to cover all the bread.  let sit for 10 minutes so the custard soaks into the bread.
• sprinkle the top with almonds and dust with a little sugar.
• bake for 20 minutes or until the custard sets.
• serve, dusted with powdered sugar!

So good!

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Perfecting the Burger

Summer isn't summer without grilling all of our favorite things; kabobs, thick rib eyes, pizza, fish, corn, all kinds of veggies and of course - burgers.  Burgers are always just okay when made at home.  Yet, after eating at Umami burger, I had to up my game. I loved my burger at Umami burger.  The burger fit perfectly on the bun, the tomatoes were juicy and the other stuff was just right. I had to recreate their great taste at home.  After, finally figuring out the right combination of meat and seasonings my kids and their friends agree that my burgers now taste like a restaurant-style burger.  Finally, got the taste that I have been searching for.  Nothing added to the meat, nothing fancy like cheese or butter shoved inside the meat, just meat, a little salt, pepper, + garlic powder.  That's it.

Eli likes grilled onions, lettuce and ketchup.  Isaac likes lettuce, ketchup + pickles (after all, a burger isn't a burger without the pickles), and Levi likes cheese and ketchup.  In my opinion, the grilled onions make this burger taste not like your ordinary burger. Don't leave these out...they truly change the taste of the burger (also delicious on a hot dog!). Use a potato bun and it makes all the difference in the world.  I am even entertaining the idea of making my own buns!  We will see if I am up for the challenge.

Restaurant Style Burgers + Grilled Onions
yield: 6-8

1 lb. ground sirloin (grass fed)
1 lb. ground chuck (grass fed)
3 tsp. kosher salt
3 tsp. ground pepper
1.5 tsp. garlic powder
potato buns
sliced tomato
sliced pickles (a must)
Boston lettuce leaves
English cheddar

Caramelized onions
2 medium onions, diced
1 Tbls. butter (ghee)
1 Tbls. canola oil
1-2 Tbls. yellow mustard

• combine salt, pepper and garlic powder.  set aside.
• heat your grill pan.
burgers: gently combine  your two meats together.  don't over mix the meat, if you do, your burgers will loose their tenderness.  make into 6-8 equal patties.  place on a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle one side of the burger with seasonings.  set in fridge while you make the onions.
onions: heat the oil and butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  add onions and cook until soft and translucent.  don't brown them.  add a pinch of salt and pepper.  remove from the pan and add a few squirts of mustard.  set aside
• spray grill pan with cooking spray.  place burgers, seasoned side down.  sprinkle tops of burgers with remaining seasonings.  grill for about 5-6 minutes, flip and then grill for about 4 minutes or until your desired doneness.
• while the burgers are cooking, brush buns with a little melted butter and warm up in a preheated oven.  they will get slightly toasted.  personally, I like to use ghee.  ghee is clarified butter and is used a lot in Indian cooking.  you can find it at whole food.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

A trip to the farm + fresh berries = cobbler!

The other day we woke up early, plied in my friends car mini-van and drove out to Underwood Farms.  Our original plan had been to go cherry picking.  Yet, the original farm that we wanted to cherry pick at, kept delaying their opening day.  We were getting impatient and decided to go to one of our old favorites.  This is one of those places that I am sure when my kids grow up they will look back and have fond memories.

It was a great day!  We picked blackberries, string beans, spinach, kale, squash, sunflowers, chard, lettuce and so much more.  After picking our goods, we visited and fed some of our favorite furry friends, weighed our veggies and left before it got too hot.  We stopped at In n Out on the way home.  How ironic is that?

I had tons of blackberries.  Made a cobbler!

Blackberry-Blueberry Cobbler

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (not thawed)
2 cups blackberries
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup milk or heavy cream

• heat oven to 400*.
• grease an 8x8" baking dish.  
• whisk sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a small saucepan, over medium heat.  add berries and cook until thickened, about 7-10 minutes.  remove from heat, stir in lemon juice + lemon zest.  pour into baking dish and set aside
• whisk 1 tablespoon of sugar, flour, baking powder, + salt.  cut butter into dry ingredients, forming small size peas in the flour mixture.  stir in milk to form a dough.  
• place large tablespoonfuls on top of fruit mixture.  sprinkle with sanding sugar.
• bake 30-40 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lunch with my favorite Salad

I get weekly recipe updates from Saveur Magazine via email.  They are always informative and always inspirational.  Each week I walk away with at least 2 recipes that I can't wait to try.  One of my favorites is the salad that was featured from Jar Restaurant. I haven't eaten at Jar in years, but I remember loving every bite.

I usually crave this salad mid week.  I am not sure why, but I do.  Maybe because it has all the food groups; protein, veggies, dairy, however no grains.  Nothing that a big hunk of crusty bread can't solve!  After eating this once, I crave it for days.  What I like to do is cut up the cabbage, fennel, carrots, celery and radishes and store in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.  I then make a batch of dressing and store in a jar, also in the fridge.  The bag of chopped veggies can last for days. If I want it the next day, I then add the extra stuff (cheese, chicken, etc). The original recipe calls for prosciutto.  I thought it would be better crispy, like bacon.  I bake mine in the oven for a few minutes and then right before I am ready to toss with the dressing, I crumble it on top.  So good!

This is the perfect party food!

Chopped Cabbage Salad
original Jar Chopped Salad ( here )

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar, seasoned
1/4 tsp. dried vinegar
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
kosher salt and pepper, pinch of each

2 chicken breasts, skin + bones, roasted
1 whole green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small fennel bulb, sliced thin
1-2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 piece of celery, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3-4 radishes, julienned
4 oz. sliced prosciutto, roasted
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
1/2 cup hearts of palm, sliced
4 oz. ricotta salata, diced
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped

• make vinaigrette.  put all ingredients in a glass jar and shake well.  set aside
• preheat oven to 375.  set chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub a little bit of olive oil on the skin side of the breast.  sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.  roast for 35 minutes.  let cool, remove skin and bone and then shred
• while the oven is on, put the prosciutto slices on a wire rack set over a sheet pan.  roast for 12-16 minutes or until crispy.  once cool, crumble and set aside
• in a large bowl, combine cabbage, fennel, carrots, celery, and radishes, toss well. add the olives, hearts of palm, chicken, sliced onion, and ricotta salata.
• toss with some of the vinaigrette (this recipe makes a lot of dressing-it won't go to waste). crumble the prosciutto on top and toss lightly.  sprinkle with chopped chives.


p.s. I used a mandoline to julienne my veggies.
p.s.s. ricotta salata is a delicious, hard ricotta cheese

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

S'mores = Summer!

A brief summary of what summer represents:

  • the beach
  • the ice cream man
  • lazy day
  • sleeping outside in a tent
  • staying up late
  • movie's under the stars (at Jeni's)
  • family vacation
  • no homework
  • s'mores
  • fireworks
  • Dodger stadium

S'mores, baked in a pan.  Go figure.  I found a FANTASTIC  recipe for a s'mores bar. Although the action of putting the marshmallow on the stick, setting it over the campfire, burning it up is all fun and games, these bars, baked in the oven can't be beat.  I whipped up these, last minute, for a party that Eli was going to.  Because these are made in an 8" square pan, it doesn't really make enough (especially since I was eating them faster than I was cutting them).  I optimized my 2" squares.  After I cut them, I put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes, then cut them in triangles.  Instead of getting 16 squares, we had 32...just enough to go around!

One recipe won't make it to your party.  Double it!

S'mores Cookie Bars
adapted from bakedperfection
yield: 16 bars

1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 cups whole wheat white flour
3/4 cup graham crackers crumbs (about 7)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 3.5-oz bars valrhona bittersweet chocolate
1 7 oz. jar marshmallow creme (about 1 1/2 cup)

• preheat oven to 350*.  grease an 8" square pan
• in a large bowl, cream butter & sugar until light. beat in eggs and vanilla.  in a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  add to butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
• divide dough in half. press half the dough into the bottom of the pan.  place chocolate bars, evenly over crust. spread marshmallow creme over chocolate.
• take the other half of the dough and and set on a silpat mat. place a piece of plastic wrap on top.  roll it into an 8" square.  place square on top of marshmallow and press lightly, with the plastic wrap, into an even layer.
• bake 35 minutes or until light brown and crispy at the edges.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cake Pops

I swore I would never make these.  Although I think they are super cute, especially if you see the way Bakerella does it.  I went back on my promise to myself and did in fact make them.  I have shared with you my week last week...end of year stuff, party after party, baked until I could bake no more.  I thought I was done and then I realized I needed something for a bunch of 4 year olds; Levi's party, the "Ducky" class.  They had requested cupcakes.  At this point I was really, really tired, totally burnt out and in my mind, done.  At some odd moment in time I got a burst of energy and decided to do something a little different...thus - Cake Pops.

Before I started I did a little research.  I read several posts on Bakerella, searched Tastespotting to see how other blogger/bakers (found a good how to on These Peas are Hallow ) had done it and lastly, checked out Angie Dudley's how to video on Martha Stewart.  Watching the video helped.  Regardless, I over mixed my batter resulting in a very wet batter.  These were for 4 year olds, after all.  They were not going to notice.  After shaping the dough into balls, I stuck them in the freezer, overnight.  All worked out in the end.  Everyone loved them and kept telling me "how delicious" they were!  I thought they tasted like cake batter on a stick.  But then again, I am not FOUR!

I am not going to post the directions only because, her website tells you exactly how to do it.  I changed one thing, which in hindsight I wouldn't do again; I made my own butter cream frosting to mix in.  Follow hers directly.  The idea of using a box mix made me a little uneasy.  I had to keep reminding myself who I was baking these for!

Get all info here:

P.S. I made a batch for Eli's 6th grade picnic.  They all went crazy over them as well and also said they were "delicious".  Heck, what do I know??

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day Feast + Beach

Yesterday was father's day. My dad was a great guy.  He loved his family, tennis, his nephew Hal and food.  I think I got my love for food from my dad.  He would drive miles for his favorite fare and always loved trying new restaurants, new bakeries and would drive for days to get his favorite pecan sticky bun.

Our day today started out with a visit to the cemetery.  The boys and I picked up sticky buns and ate them with my dad and each boy shared their favorite stories about "Poppy".  We sat around, ate our sticky buns, drank our hot chocolates and had a really, really good laugh.  This was the first time we visited him without crying.

We came home and packed up the car for a day at the beach.  I made a feast; three different kind of sandwiches, string bean salad, couscous with asparagus, peas, feta and pine nuts, cookies and a delicious strawberry lemonade.  I must admit, I have never made homemade lemonade.  Shame on me.  This lemonade was so easy and so good.  Homemade lemonade will be a fixture in our fridge from now on!  The only thing missing from the drink today was some Grey Goose Vodka!  Isaac and I went for a long walk and collected rocks, Eli spent the day in the water, and Levi dug with the shovel, jumped in the water, and ate all the cookies.  What else is new??

Miguel's had few requests today.  No gifts.  Spend the day together, as a family (his family joined us) and to not have to do any dishes.  I think we did a good job with carrying out his wishes.  It was a great day!

Strawberry Lemonade
original recipe from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book
yield: 7-8 cups

fresh strawberry sauce
1 pint of strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbls. water

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups cold sparkling water ( I used Pelligrino )

strawberry sauce: in the food processor, puree all the ingredients until smooth. strain the berry mixture into a clean bowl and discard the seeds.  cover and refrigerate.

lemonade: put the water and the sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a slight boil.  make sure all the sugar has dissolved.  turn heat down and let cook for 3 minutes.  In a pitcher combine the lemon juice and the cooled simple syrup (sugar and water mixture).  place in the fridge.

when ready to serve, combine the strawberry sauce and the lemonade and mix thoroughly in a pitcher.  add the sparkling water and some ice cubes ( i made mint ice cubes by putting mint leaves in my ice cube trays - it was pretty ).

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Triple Chocolate Triangels

If you want to a crowd, a huge crowd, these are the cookies for you!  I stumbled upon this recipe last week as I was reading some of my older issues of Donna Hay Magazines.  There was a whole series of holiday cookies, that I remember reading about, but neglected to experiment with.  What I loved most about this recipe, aside from the taste, was that it had so few ingredients.  I have a feeling that this batter can be made into a plethora of combinations!

Triple Chocolate Triangles
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine
yield approximately 48 triangles

250g unsalted butter, room temp
2 1/2 cups (440g) brown sugar
1 Tbls. vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups (450g) all purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking powder
125g dark chocolate, chopped
125g white chocolate, chopped
125g milk chocolate, chopped
(I used more chocolate than the original recipe and I used callebaut )

• preheat oven to 355*.  place butter, sugar + vanilla in a the bowl of an electric mixer and beat 8-10 minutes, until pale and creamy. gradually add eggs, beating until combined.  add flour and baking powder until a smooth dough forms.
• add the chocolate and mix to combine.  press the dough into a lightly greased 12" x 16" jelly roll pan, lined with parchment.
• bake 25-30 minutes until golden.  allow to cool completely and then cut into 24 squares, then cut each square into triangles.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cakes, Cookies, Caramel Corn, OH MY!

It's the end of another school year.  Next year my kids will be a year older, I will be a year older and life goes on.
This year is no different than any other year, I over did it.  I baked and baked and baked until I couldn't stand any longer, thus, indulged in an hour and half massage.  The weeks will go on and in time I will forget about how tight my shoulders are and how swollen my feet were.  Next, year at this time, I will forget all about the aches and pains and do it all over again!

I bought these great baking pans at Bed Bath & Beyond.  This year, rather than packing in boxes, I wrapped everything up in exactly what I baked in.  The presentation, if I do say so myself, was lovely.

Cherry Almond Bars
adapted from rustic fruit desserts
yield 12 bars

fruit filling
3 cups (18 oz ) cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbls. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. fine salt
zest and juice of one lemon

crust and topping
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp. fine salt
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

• preheat oven to 350*.  butter a 9" square baking pan
 fruit filling: quarter cherries, put in saucepan with sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon zest, + lemon juice over medium high heat.  bring to a boil, boil for 1-2 minutes until thickened
• crust + topping: combine flour, brown sugar, almonds, + salt in the bowl of a food processor + pulse. add the butter until crumbly.  add the egg and vanilla and pulse until mixture comes together.
• press two-thirds of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, then pour in the cherry filling. press the remaining crust on top.
• bake 30-35 minutes or until light golden brown and bubbling.  cool for 1 hour before cutting.
• the bars will keep at room temperature for 4 days.

2 banana nut loaves
1 cherry almond bars (shown)
48 triple chocolate triangles
8 dozen milk chocolate cookies
4 pounds cashew-almond caramel corn

6 1/2 pounds flour
4 pounds butter
1 1/4 pound brown sugar
5 pounds sugar
2 pounds good chocolate
9 cups fruit
21 eggs
2 pounds nuts

was it worth it?  heck yeah!

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Almond-Cashew Caramel Corn

When I was little, my dad and I would buy a tin of Poppycock and sit together and eat the whole tin in one sitting.   I am not proud of this indulgence nor the fact that I have a few cavities to prove it, but the memory of my dad and I sharing something so special and indulgent is a memory I carry around with me.  My dad loved food.  Most of my favorite memories of my dad are the ones that center around a special bakery, the perfect hamburger, the creamiest milk shake and the best fried zucchini circles.  Just to name a few.

This week is last week of school.  I am in awe at how quickly the year flew by.  Time just goes so fast and I am trying really, really hard to be in the moment, cherish the little moments and embrace all that I have.  As each of my kids grow older and move on to new experiences, my list just grows and grows on who I want to thank and appreciate for a wonderful year.  This year the list is especially long as I have three kids in three different schools.  As much as I tell myself, "next year, I am going to buy them something" I just can't help myself to make and create, give from the heart and hopefully convey my gratitude for taking care of my kids all year.

This caramel corn is the first of many creations.  I am also making a milk chocolate cookie, Cherry crumb bars, blueberry crumb cake, blueberry pound cake, triple chocolate triangles, and a banana nut loaf.

I have adapted this recipe and it is almost as good as the caramel corn I grew up eating.

Almond-Cashew Caramel Corn
makes approximately 8 cups

1/2 cup popcorn kernels, freshly popped
2 cup whole almonds
1 cup whole cashews
2 cups brown sugar
6 Tbls. unsalted butter
3 oz. light corn syrup
3 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp. salt
3/8 tsp. baking soda

• preheat oven to 250*.  butter or spray 2 baking pans.  mix warm popcorn and nuts in prepared pans.  place in the oven until caramel sauce is ready.
• combine brown sugar, butter, + corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan.  whisk over medium low heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts.  attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and increase the heat to high and boil without stirring until 255*.  remove from heat.
• stir in vanilla extract, almond extract, salt + baking soda (the mixture will bubble, so stand back).  gradually pour the caramel over the popcorn and nuts, stirring.  try to coat all the popcorn.
• bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  I like to bake it in 20 minutes increments, stir a little, rotate the pan and then bake 20, etc.  cool completely.
• be careful, this is addicting.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Waffles for everyday of the week

Breakfast is an important meal in our house.  I want my kids to have a little nutrition at the beginning of their day. Their meals vary but all include some sort of fruit.  As much as I hate to feel like a short order cook in the mornings, I really don't have much choice, especially if I want them to eat.  Isaac likes either a BL; toasted sourdough with turkey bacon and lettuce or arugula or a waffle.  Levi prefers oatmeal, homemade cinnamon toast or a waffle.  Eli likes either a Spanish omelet (provided I have left over roasted potatoes from the night before), eggy sopita - our version of soft boiled eggs, twice cooked, a "grandma rose" - a grilled cheese with English cheddar made in my grandma's sandwich press or a waffle.  On those rushed mornings, waffles become the obvious choice.

On Sunday morning, I like to prep lots of different veggies, grains, salad dressings, marinades and most Sunday's, waffles for the upcoming week.  Sunday morning breakfast usually consists of bagels and lox.   Miguel picks them up after his early round of golf.  That doesn't stop me from making a big batch of waffles which, generally lasts the entire week.  I make them in my Belgium waffle iron, flash freeze them on a cookie sheet and once frozen store in Ziploc freezer bags.  These are much healthier than the waffles you buy in your local super market and its a great way to use up the last of the buttermilk that may have a short lifespan.

Buttermilk Waffles

2 cups organic whole wheat white flour
2 Tbls. sucanat (organic sugar)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups well shaken buttermilk
6 Tbls. unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
zest of one orange

add ins:
chocolate chips
sauteed apples

• preheat waffle iron
• melt butter and let cool, slightly
• whisk flour, sucanat, baking powder, baking soda, salt
• whisk buttermilk, cooled butter, eggs, and orange zest
• add flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.  it is okay if there are a few lumps
• to make banana or yam waffle batter add 1/4 cup of smashed banana or cooked yam, add 1/4 more flour
• put 1/4-1/2 cup of batter on each square of the waffle iron.  add your flavors of choice
• put waffles on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  when cooled, put in freezer for about an hour
• when ready to eat, remove desired amount from the freezer and toast for approximately 4 minutes

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chunky Chili

After returning from the farmers market with bags full of organic produce (tomatoes, asparagus, beets, squash, arugula, spinach, leeks, green onions, peaches, plums, cherries, etc), farm fresh eggs, nuts, and sunflowers I was inspired to cook.  With this being a very full week (3 evening baseball games) I need to make things that can be prepared in advance and warmed up when we get home from the baseball field.  On top of all that, it is my in-laws 54th wedding anniversary.  In the midst of playoff games, end of the year celebrations and preparing for summer camp, I wanted to make them dinner.

One pot meals are the only way to go when one has limited time and is spending most of the day driving from here to there.  I decided on a chunky chili which was inspired by a new episode of The Barefoot Contessa (original recipe here ).  I, nor my mother-in-law likes spicy so I altered the recipe.  This is a cross between a stew, a chili, and just a big bowl of goodness!

Anniversary Menu
Chunky Chili
Red Rice
Blackberry-Blueberry Cobbler
(this didn't make it to them...they got a box of sables)

Devon's Award-Winning Chili
altered and adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

5 lbs beef brisket, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onions
6 gloves garlic, minced
2 Tbls. chili powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbls. cumin, ground
2 red peppers, chipped
1 bay leaf
7 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbls. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper, ground
1/2 cup strong coffee
1 (15 oz.) can white beans
2 Tbls. chopped basil leaves

on the side:
chopped red onions
grated white cheddar
tortilla chips

• pat brisket dry with paper towels.  heat oil in dutch oven ( i use le creuset ) and add brisket in batches.  brown on one side for about 3 minutes, then flip over and brown well on other side.  transfer to a plate and repeat with the rest of the meat ( I did this in 3 batches).
• saute onions + garlic in the same pan for about 10 minutes, until soft.
• add the chili powder, cayenne, red pepper flakes, + cumin.  stir for one minute, until fragrant.
• add the red pepper, tomatoes, bay leaf, reserved meat, and salt + pepper.  bring to a boil.
• reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.  taste for seasoning.
• add the coffee, cover and simmer for one more hour
• add beans and chopped basil, let heat through.
• when ready to serve, sprinkle more basil on top

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hazelnut macaroons + chocolate raspberry ganache

More egg whites.  I just can't throw them out.  Thus, more macaroons.  Today, hazelnut shells with chocolate-raspberry ganache.  I think I over aged my egg whites.  Is that possible?  These were not one of the more successful macaroon endeavors.  Nor were they the prettiest, hence, delicious.  The ganache was the perfect combination of bitter and sweet.  It was smooth and easy to apply to the shell of the macaroon.  This will go down as a staple ganache recipe! 

adapted from helene of

for the shells
90 grams (about 3) egg whites (measured after aging)
25-50 grams(2 Tbls. - 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
200 grams ( 1.5 cups + 2 Tbls) powdered sugar
110 grams ( 3/4 cup) almond flour/meal (for this recipe I did 1/2 hazelnut flour - 1/2 almond flour)
1 Tbls. powdered food coloring (optional)

prep the eggs
48 hours in advance, separate the whites from the yolks and place whites in a super clean bowl.  leave at room
temperature, uncovered for at least 24 hours.  refrigerate after that.  you can use eggs that have been aging for up to 5 days.

prepare the macaroons
• if using nuts, place powdered sugar + nuts in a food processor and give them a good pulse until finely ground.  sift a few times to remove bits and pieces. ( I like bobs red meal hazelnut meal & almond meal ) if using color add it now.
• in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam (like bubble bath), gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (like shaving cream).  Do not over beat your meringue or it will be too dry
• add the nut mixture, give a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10.  Give quick strokes at first and then slow down.  Test a small amount on a plate;  if the tops flattens on its won you are good to go.  if there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
• fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (80 or 809) with the batter and pipe small mounds on to parchment lined baking sheets.  let macaroons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells.
• preheat oven to 300*.  when read to bake, bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating half way through. let cool.

prepare chocolate raspberry ganache
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temp
1/16 tsp. raspberry extract or raspberry oil

• melt chocolate + cream in a bowl over simmering water ( do not let water touch bottom of the bowl), stirring until smooth.  remove from heat and add the butter and extract until melted.  let stand at room temp until cooled completely and thickened.

• match up macaroons by size and lay upside down on a cookie sheet.  put about a teaspoon of ganache on one of the macaroons and carefully press the the other macaroon on top.
• let sit in refrigerator over night.
• eat and enjoy!

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Chevre Brownies

Brownies are the perfect picnic food.  I wanted chocolate, I wanted a brownie, but I wanted something a little different.  I thought a cream cheese brownie would be great but didn't have cream cheese.  However, what I did have was some goat cheese.  I thought, what the heck...I am going to experiment.

I used the brownie base for David Lebovitz's ( Ready for Dessert ) cheesecake brownies, but swapped the cream cheese for goat cheese and added a touch more sugar ( to compensate for the tartness in the goat cheese).  I also omitted the chocolate chips from the actual brownie base and instead took a skinny bar of Valrhona and did a rough chop.  After swirling in the cheese mixture, I dotted the top of the brownies with the chocolate chunks. This ended up being a delicious experiment!

Chevre Brownies
adapted from David Lebovitz
yield 16 brownies


6 Tbls. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbls. unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Valrhona )
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate chunks

goat-cheesecake topping
8 oz. mild goat cheese, room temp
1 large egg yolk
6 Tbls. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

• preheat oven to 350*.  spray the inside of a 9" square baking pan w/cooking spray and line with parchment, leaving some overhang.  lightly spray the parchment.
for the brownies, in a medium saucepan melt the butter, then add the 4 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, melt over low heat until smooth.  remove from heat and stir in the 2/3 cup of sugar, followed by the eggs.  add the rest of the ingredients, minus the chocolate chunks.  using a small off set spatula, spread evenly in the prepared pan.
for the cheesecake, in a medium bowl, beat all the ingredients until smooth and incorporated. distribute the cheesecake mixture in dollops over top of brownie batter.  with a butter knife, swirl the cheese mixture into the brownie.  don't mix and swirl as you will end up with a muddy mess.  you want it to look streaky.   dot the tops of the brownies with the chopped bittersweet chocolate, distributing evenly.
• bake until brownies are set in the center, about 35 minutes.  let cool completely in the pan before removing.
• I stored these in the fridge.

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