Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Foot-"less" and Fancy Free

When I saw the Daring Bakers' challenge for this month, I was really excited. Finally, something that is a bit different from a challenging cake...and it's something that I've been wanting to make! Macaroons!!! 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.

These were a bit different than I thought; I thought that macaroons by definition had coconut in them. However, according to wikipedia :-) (or the lovely explanation on the DB site if I had read it well!) they are "made either with coconut and egg white or with a coarse almond paste." So, they CAN have coconut, but don't have to have it. I'd like to try one with coconut at some point but didn't this time. I guess, technically, with my nut substitution, I didn't really made a macaroon, as I used pecans, but let's look past that. It appeared to me, after looking at the discussion board, that my attempt at macaroons had failed. I did not have any of the lovely "feet" that everyone was talking about. However, after looking at multiple pictures, I see that it doesn't HAVE to have this foot process. Maybe mine actually needed to cook longer, they did seem very dry to me. I decided to flavor my cookies with cinnamon and fill them with (store bought!) Nutella. Let me just say that these flavors perfectly complemented each other. I took the cookies to call with me and they were QUICKLY eaten. I really enjoyed the texture of the cookie. It was soft and just melted in my mouth without that grainy meringue texture. Yum! I would definitely try these again. Thanks Ami for the great challenge! I loved it. Check out more results here.

French Macarons

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.) (I made pecan flour by processing 2 cups pecans with 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). 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 (Ateco #806). 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 (190°C). 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.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's (and my) note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fish Tales

You know how when people go fishing and catch some amazing sized fish, every time they tell the story the fish gets bigger? Well, you'd think that's what happened with this piece of tilapia when I tell you that it was the size of my entire pan...but it's not! It really was! Now this is obviously a toaster oven pan, but still! This fish was good for about three meals (really 2.5 but well paired made three). I wanted to do something a little different from what I usually do with tilapia, so I pulled out the Panko bread crumbs I found at Big Lots and thought. What could I use to bind the crumbs to the fish? I didn't really want to use egg...mayo! I pulled out my mayo (which is fake stuff, the fat free kind...I know, I know!). Just season your fish, spread some mayo on it and sprinkle with panko crumbs. For some color, which I didn't even think about but my friend Sarah suggested, spray the crumbs with Pam or even a bit of butter. In a 425 degree oven cook for 12 minutes or until the fish flakes. This is SOOO good and moist! Probably one of the best ways I've had tilapia.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Be-Twix-t and Between

When our college students returned to school, the Sunday school hosted a welcome back spaghetti lunch (eww...not a big fan!) and I offered to make spaghetti and a dessert. For the dessert, I decided to make something different because I knew that there would be a lot of chocolate chip cookies and brownies (which seemed to be the popular thing to bring). I went thumbing through Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my Home to Yours. Finally, I settled on what she calls "Snickery Squares." After making these, I think they are really more like Twix (with the addition of peanuts). Now, these bars are supposed to have a layer of caramel between the shortbread crust and the chocolate on top. Ummm...so, I didn't realize that dulce de leche is different from caramel sauce. Let me tell you...IT IS!!!! I basically had a soup of caramel. I put the bars in the refrigerator and it solidified some but after I cut the bars the caramel very quickly ran out. Even with this mistake...totally on my part!...the bars were delicious! I loved how the caramel kind of soaked into the shortbread. I could just eat the shortbread with caramel and be happy. YUM! I would make these again but get the right product for the caramel next time...or do that trick with sweetened condensed milk. Isn't there some way to cook it and make dulce de leche? I doubled the recipe and it seemed to work well. Anyway, with Halloween coming up, make your own candy with this recipe...Snickers or Twix...it's good. :-) Snickery Squares from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my Home to Yours
1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 T confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk (I may not have used this...don't remember!)

1/3 cup sugar
3 T water
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts
1 1/2 cups store-bought dulce de leche (oops... I used caramel)

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used semi-sweet chips)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temp

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare an 8-inch pan. For crust toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar, and salt in a food processor. toss in cold butter pieces and pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Pour the yollk over the ingredients and pulse until clumps are formed. Turn into the prepared pan and press over the bottom of the pan. Prick with a fork and place pan into the oven, bake for 15-20 minutes or until slightly browned around the edges. For the filling you will candy the peanuts first. To do this, put the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and cook while stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, until it just starts to color (high heat). Toss in peanuts and start stirring right away. Stir until the peanuts are coated and begin to turn white and then turn amber colored. Remove from heat and pour over a silicone liner or parchment paper. Cool. When cool, break into small pieces. Spread the dulce de leche over teh shortbread base and sprinkle over half of the candied nuts.

For the topping melt the chocolate in a bowl (I used a microwave). When melted, gently stir in the butter until fully blended. Pour over the dulce de leche and smooth with an icing spatula. Then sprinkle the other half of nuts (finely chopped) over the top. Refrigerate about 20 minutes. May serve cold after refrigerating for 3 hours.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Organized....or Not!

Do you ever need help keeping things organized? I do...yet, I don't use that help as I should. Maybe a little organizer before the new year would help. If you need help, stop by Sarah's site and check out her latest give-away. It's a lovely orange planner all set and ready for 2010 to come.

One way I keep my recipes organized is to bookmark recipes that I think look good. Sometimes I randomly browse these recipes in search of a good new treat to try. Last month, I found a recipe that I had bookmarked for a LONG time (maybe my organizational method doesn't work so well!). It was some brown sugar cookies from Jane. One reason I wanted to try these cookies is that they are simply a sugar cookie, just made with brown sugar...a little different take. Another reason....brown butter! Mmmmm! These cookies did NOT disappoint. They reminded me a bit of molasses cookies (which I don't think I've posted on here yet...will do!), which makes sense seeing as brown sugar is simply granulated sugar made moist by adding molasses. The cookies were simple to make and temptingly delicious. I highly recommend them.

Brown Sugar Cookies modified from Just Jane
11 tablespoons unsalted butter (I decreased the browned butter to 8 tablespoons and then had three waiting to be used...so used that instead of 4)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (about 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Heat 8 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 3 tablespoons butter into hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl; set aside. Mix granulated sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar together for rolling the dough in later.

3. Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to bowl with cooled butter; mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.

4. Rolling dough into walnut sized balls, about 1- 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Working in batches, toss balls in reserved sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

5. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone) 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do NOT overbake.

6. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes...but not too long or they'll be hard to get off the pan; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

When You Don't Have Time

My time in the kitchen has been limited recently. Some of that because I'm lazy and some of it true lack of time. I know that a lot of people have this "issue" as well. However, all of us like a good homemade cinnamon roll from time to time. A while back I found a great looking recipe for cinnamon roll muffins that claimed to have the taste of cinnamon rolls but made much more quickly than those delectable treats. I decided to take these one day last month for call instead of cookies...I had been reprimanded for bringing cookies because apparently some residents don't have much self control. I figured that muffins would be less harmful as there are less per batch and you can tell how many have been eaten. :-) These muffins were very good and did have a cinnamon roll taste about them, but the texture is obviously different. Part of that may be due to the fact that I did have to modify the recipe slightly...I didn't have any yeast; so, these were your traditional muffin. The original recipe may be more like a cinnamon roll than the muffins I ended up with. Try for yourself!Easy Cinnamon Roll Muffins from Joy the Baker

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp active dry or rapid rise yeast (I didn't have any...it works without but would be good with)
2/3 cup warm milk (100-110F; low fat is fine)
3 tbsp vegetable oil (I think I reduced this...not for sure)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg


2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cardamom

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp milk or cream

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Stir milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.
While the dough rests, mix together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a small bowl using a fork (or fingers) until all the butter has been incorporated into the sugar and mixture is crumbly. Divide the batter between 12 greased muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly on top of rested dough and press the mixture down into the dough with your fingertips (or swirl in with a spatula.)
Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350F.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Some of the sugar mixture on top may still be bubbling.
Cool for at least 30 minutes before whisking the powdered sugar and milk together to form an icing and drizzling it onto the bread.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Shrimpy is Often Good

I have now transitioned to a month on pediatric wards (basically, in-hospital team for kids). Last night I was on call...and our post-call list is three patients long. That is UNHEARD of...incredibly, well, shrimpy! I will take shrimpy. I'll also take shrimpy for a good lunch. I got an e-mail from Real Simple with this yummy looking taco recipe that I decided to transform into a salad. Initially it wasn't quite what I was expecting, but after sitting for a little while it got better. Probably would be better as the tacos, but I thought it was a refreshing change for a salad. The biggest problem was the cole slaw...it was just too tough for me and didn't really soak up the dressing very well. If you try this, maybe play around with the greens...the shrimp and citrus flavors were wonderful!

Shirmp and Citrus Salad
1/2 bag cole slaw
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons sour cream/Greek yogurt
salt and pepper
1 cup corn kernels, cut fresh from cob (about 2 ears)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 pound medium shrimp, thawed and grilled
sliced almonds (optional - I didn't use but just now thought it would be a yummy addition)


  1. In a large bowl, whisk the orange and lime juices, sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the cabbage and corn. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes. Overnight is better.
  2. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Cook on grill (I used George Forman...you could just saute in a skillet) Cook until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. When ready to serve, add oranges to slaw (almonds would make a good addition, too) and serve shrimp on top.