Ricotta Gnocchi

I have to write about these cute little gnocchi because they have become a regular in our dinner rotation, they are easy to make, and they are delicious! In less than an hour, you can make these from scratch and have dinner on your table. Everyone in my family loves these, and that’s a bonus!

I like that they are made with ricotta cheese instead of potatoes… easier to make, and more dependably good. I make Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Kenji? Mainly because of his pie crust recipe that changed my pie world. And now these gnocchi. My husband Matthew doesn’t even like gnocchi, but he loves these.

So cute!

I haven’t done anything different to Kenji’s recipe (I don’t think!), because it is so simple and perfect. But here it is anyway. If I can do it, so can you.

Ricotta Gnocchi

(Recipe from Kenji Lopez-Alt)

Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) fresh ricotta, the best you can find
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (use a microplane)
  • goodly pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour (preferably King Arthur flour) plus more for dusting
  1. Place 3 to 4 paper towels on a large dinner plate. Place the ricotta on the paper towels and spread it out.
  2. Cover the ricotta with 3 to 4 more paper towels, and press down to absorb excess moisture.
  3. Remove top layers of paper towels. Spoon 1 cup (about 230 grams) of ricotta and place in a large bowl. Save the rest of the ricotta for another use (I often just keep it to add to the next batch of gnocchi).
  4. Add the egg, egg yolk, 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese*, salt and pepper. Stir to blend.
  5. Add 1 cup (120 grams) flour and stir lightly to blend. Dough should be fluffy and airy. Don’t over mix. If the dough feels a bit too wet, sprinkle a bit more flour and stir lightly.
  6. Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Sprinkle with flour and press lightly on the dough to spread it into a square or rectangle.
  7. Cut into four equal pieces. Roll each quarter into a short log, then cut the logs in half. This leaves you with 8 pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into a long rope about 12″ in length. Cut the rope into pieces about 3/4″ wide. I try to get about 15 pieces per rope. Toss pieces with flour so they don’t stick together. Repeat with the rest of the ropes.
  9. At this point, you will have little pillows of dough. You can consider yourself done with the process, unless you want to shape them further.
  10. If you would like to shape the gnocchi, you can roll each floured pillow against the back of the tines of a fork, or you can use a gnocchi board, which is what I use. They are inexpensive and fun to use! I just take the gnocchi, place on the back of the fork tines or gnocchi board, press into the center of the dough as I roll it off of the board. The pressing into the center creates a little divot that is good for holding on to sauces, and you will have nice ridges on the outside that also serve as sauce holders. BUT, it’s not necessary. Every time I get to this point in the process, I think I’m not gonna do it, but then I do, because they are so cute.**
  11. Put your favorite sauce to simmer in a dutch oven or other large-ish pot. I like to throw together a half recipe of this one. Then bring some salted water to boil (4 quarts) in a large, wide pot. Once the water comes to a boil, stir it to create a swirling whirlpool effect. Dump the gnocchi into the swirling, boiling water. They usually cook in about 3 minutes or less. I like to give the pot a quick stir once they are all in there. The gnocchi will rise to the top of the water and float when they are done.
  12. Using a “spider” or a large slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to your simmering sauce. Add maybe a half cup of the pasta water to the sauce, then stir gently once to coat the gnocchi. Bring to a slow boil and let boil for a minute. Remove from heat and serve with salad and a good crusty bread.

Notes:

*For the cheese, I just take a microplane grater and grate the cheese directly into the bowl with the other ingredients. I eyeball it and keep going until the mountain of cheese looks like a hearty 1/2 cup, or even a bit more. Oh, and it’s best to use a microplane grater so that the cheese is very fine. You don’t want bigger bits of cheese in the gnocchi.

**If you are not going to cook the gnocchi right away, you can freeze them to be used at a later date. Once they are shaped as you like them, spread the gnocchi out on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Freeze for several hours. Place the frozen gnocchi into a freezer storage bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and store in your freezer. They will only take a few more minutes to cook from frozen.

And here are some photos with some more tips…

Use whole milk ricotta that has no additives. Trader Joe’s has a good one.

Spread the ricotta with a spatula.

Top with more paper towels and press out the extra moisture.

The ricotta should be easy to scrape off of the paper towels.

Place a cup’s worth of the ricotta into a large bowl. Save the rest for another use.

Add egg, egg yolk, cheese, and salt and pepper.

Give it a stir.

Add flour.

Stir lightly until the dough comes together. Add extra flour if necessary, but go lightly.

Place dough onto floured surface and shape into square. Sprinkle top with flour.

Cut into four pieces.

Make four sloppy logs.

Cut each log in half.

Roll each log out into a rope about 12″ long.

Cut into little pillows about 3/4″ wide and toss in flour.

Continue with the rest until you are done. If you want to continue to shape….

Here’s the gnocchi board – a fun kitchen gadget! (Or use the back of a fork along the tines.)

Here they are shaped (rolled down the board). Optional! At this point, you can boil them in salted water, or you can freeze them and save for a later date.

Boil, then transfer to favorite sauce and simmer. Done!

Posted in Dinner, Fun in the kitchen! | 8 Comments

Salted Rosemary Olive Oil Buns

Every year we host Thanksgiving… often with up to twenty or more around the table. Of course, last year was completely different, due to the global pandemic we are suffering through, but this year, with all of us being vaccinated, we had a small gathering to give thanks for all that is good in our lives. I was thrilled. There were eight of us, which was cozy and perfect.

[Imagine photo here…. we were all so overjoyed at being together that none of us took a moment away to grab a photo.]

But here is the table in our living room, before getting set, with our cat Togy enjoying the cat cave.

Well, here’s the truth of it: making a feast for eight is just as much work as making a feast for twenty. I usually start the day before Thanksgiving, and spend two entire days putting everything together. This year was no exception. My older daughter Mara asked if we could have “King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls” (she and Millie love them), and I happily said yes, thinking that I would be off the hook for bread. She picked a package up at the grocery store.

Doesn’t everyone love these?

Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, I had trouble falling asleep, imagining a feast without homemade rolls! How could I let that happen? So, I woke up extra early on Thanksgiving morning, and got busy right away. I thought about what sounded good… what reminded me of Thanksgiving – something savory and fragrant. Rosemary! I looked at Carol’s recipe for white bread, and decided to use that as my base.

Making bread is a little bit of magic.

I used a mix of flours – all-purpose, bread flour, and white whole wheat – to make things interesting. And I have plenty of fresh rosemary in the garden, so adding that in was easy. Carol’s recipe calls for vegetable oil – I used extra virgin olive oil for added flavor. And finally, I brushed the rolls with egg white and sprinkled them with Maldon sea salt flakes.

They look like alien pods right here…

The rolls turned out beautifully!

I love the slight sheen from the egg white wash.

They were a big hit with everyone, even with the girls. Or maybe I should say especially with the girls. I have been making them about every three days to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and also because the girls have been taking them to school every day for their lunches. And if you should know, it is a high compliment to have your high schooler bring your baked goods to school and share with her buddies.

Mara in the middle, making Christmas cookies with friends.

Salted Rosemary Olive Oil Buns

(Makes 1 dozen)

For the sponge:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110°)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (about 60 grams) white whole wheat flour*
  • 2 cups bread flour (about 240 grams)*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (9 grams)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon (1 packet) active dry yeast

For the dough:

  • 1 to 2 cups (120 to 240 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles

For the tops:

  • 1 egg white (for glaze)
  • 1 tablespoon Maldon sea salt flakes (or comparable) for sprinkling
  1. To make the sponge: in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together the warm water, olive oil, white whole wheat flour, bread flour, sea salt, and yeast. Once ingredients are well mixed, let mixture rest for twenty minutes. It should end up with a few bubbles.
  2. After the sponge has rested, add the rosemary and one cup of all-purpose flour and mix until the flour and rosemary are incorporated. Switch to a dough hook, and mix at low speed (#2 on my mixer) for about 8 to 10 minutes. Dough should pull away from sides of bowl, and be stretchy/tacky/easy to handle. If dough is still too wet and sticky, add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it becomes tacky and pulls away from the bowl. It should feel like the sticky side of a post-it note.
  3. Dump dough onto floured surface and knead by hand for a bit more, until dough is springy. Shape into a ball.
  4. Cover with a tea towel (you can do this on your counter) and let rise for one hour.
  5. Lightly flour the top of the dough ball and flip over so that the sticky side is facing up. Cut into 12 equal pieces with a sharp knife or bench scraper (I like to weigh the pieces of dough so that the rolls are all the same size, but that’s just me).
  6. With the sticky side still facing up, pull the sides of the dough pieces into the center and pinch together, making a little sack. Turn seam side down and roll into a ball with a cupped hand, tightening the shape. Here is a great video from King Arthur Baking Company that shows how to do this: How to shape dough into balls.
  7. Place the rolls seam side down on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, equally spaced. Cover with tea towel and let rest for an hour. Rolls should rise and become visibly puffy. When you poke with a finger, the dough should very slowly pop back, still leaving a little imprint. About half way through the rise time, preheat your oven to 350°.
  8. In a small bowl, stir egg white with a fork until slightly frothy. Brush the rolls with the egg white. With a pair of scissors, snip a cross in the top of each roll. Sprinkle the tops with a small pinch of the sea salt flakes.
  9. Bake on center rack in 350° oven for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet. Makes one dozen rolls.

Note: *If you only have all-purpose flour, you can still make these rolls, and they will be delicious! I recommend King Arthur Baking Company flour for best results.

Dough is ready for kneading and shaping.

Shaped into a round.

Cover with tea towel and let rest for an hour.

After an hour!

Flip over and cut, first into quarters…

Then cut each quarter into thirds for 12 pieces. I weigh them…

Pull the edges to the center and pinch to make a ball/sack.

Looks like this.

Flip back over so sticky seam side is down, then cup hand over dough and circle it around to tighten the shape.

Place rolls on parchment lined baking sheet, evenly spaced.

Brush with egg white and sprinkle with a few salt flakes.

Bake at 350° for about a half hour – let cool on baking sheet.

Ready for your holiday table!

Posted in Yeasty Things | Leave a comment

Apple Crumb Galette

Hello, October sun!

Recently, a friend of mine made Claudia Fleming’s Apple Crumb Crostata, and anything with a crumb topping is going to get my attention in a big way. So I found the recipe and made it, of course. In doing so, I realized that it was basically a bigger version of the apple galette that I make, with a copious crumb topping. And also an optional toffee sauce, which really puts it over the top… no pun intended.

Just yum.

So, here is my version of this wonderful dessert, using my favorite pie crust, my favorite apple filling, and my favorite crumb topping! I also bake it a little differently to ensure a crispy crust (no soggy bottom please). I have not changed the toffee sauce except for omitting the bacon grease and reducing it to just one quarter of the original amount… a little goes a long way!

Apple Crumb Galette

(Inspired by Claudia Fleming’s Apple Crumb Crostata)

Serves 8

  • 1/2 recipe of your favorite pie crust dough* (Make your disc of pie crust dough a couple of hours – or even a day or two – ahead, and keep in refrigerator.)
  • 5 to 6 medium to large sized apples – I like a mix of gala (2) and pink lady (3) – peeled, cored, and sliced. Ideally you will have a hearty 5 cups worth.
  • Fresh lemon juice, a Tablespoon or two
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • Milk for brushing the crust and sugar for sprinkling the crust

Crumb topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 heaping teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch kosher salt

Toffee sauce (optional):

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. (Also, make sure one oven rack is on the lower third of the oven, and one oven rack is in the middle.)
  2. Take your disc of pie dough out of the fridge and let it sit on your counter while you prepare your apples: about fifteen minutes. It will be easier to roll out if it is not straight out of the fridge.
  3. Peel and core your apples, and slice 1/4″ thick, then cut slices in half.
  4. Toss apple pieces with lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Roll out your pie dough on a lightly floured surface to about 14″ in diameter (don’t worry about jagged edges; they add to the charm) and transfer to the parchment lined cookie sheet. Put in fridge to let it chill.
  7. Make your crumb topping by mixing all the ingredients together in a medium bowl until well combined and crumbly. Put mixture in fridge.
  8. Remove rolled out pie crust from fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 3 to 5 minutes.
  9. Put apples in center of rolled out dough, leaving a 2 to 3 inch border of crust all the way around. Brush the exposed edges of crust lightly with milk.
  10. Fold in the sides of the crust, pinching the folds gently so they adhere. Brush outer crust lightly with milk and sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar.
  11. Remove crumb topping from fridge and cover the exposed apples with it. It’s ok if some of the crumb topping spills over onto the crust – this adds to the charm.
  12. Bake galette in preheated 425° oven on the bottom rack for 10 minutes, then move the galette to the middle rack, reduce oven temperature to 375°, and continue to bake for 30 to 40 minutes longer, or until crust is a deep golden brown and filling is bubbling. Don’t worry about the crust getting dark – it is worth it to have a well baked, flaky crust that is baked all the way through on the bottom.
  13. Remove from oven and let cool on cooling rack (still on cookie sheet) for at least one hour before serving. Galette is best served warm or at room temperature, and is lovely served with vanilla ice cream.
  14. While galette is cooling, make your toffee sauce (optional).
  15. In a small sauce pan, combine the heavy cream and dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, being careful not to let it boil over. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Whisk in the butter cubes little by little until all the butter is incorporated. Serve the sauce warm, drizzled lightly over the galette. Enjoy!

Note: To crisp the crust the next day, you can reheat the galette in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes. Place a sheet of aluminum foil lightly over the top to keep from burning. This will even work when the galette is two days old, if it lasts that long.

 

 

Posted in Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 6 Comments

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

Fall is officially here, and it’s time to start thinking about holiday baking and gift giving, right?

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds make great gifts!

At Trader Joe’s, they used to have these amazing cinnamon roasted almonds and the girls loved them. Then, of course, they stopped carrying them. I didn’t think too much about it, but every now and then, the girls would say, “Remember those yummy cinnamon almonds we used to get?”. Then I would think about them. We also got some when we were in Portland with my dear friend Lisa exploring the different fun neighborhoods – and street vendors! – those were yummy too.

In Portland with Lisa, checking out the street vendors.

So, the other day, when I was at Trader Joe’s, I noticed they had some maple almonds, and I got kind of excited, thinking they would be like the cinnamon ones. NOPE. Not at all. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was so disappointed. Don’t eat a maple flavored almond thinking it will taste anything like a cinnamon one. So now you know that I had to try to recreate the wonderful cinnamon almonds the girls and I remembered and loved so much.

Dark roast with extra cinnamon!

Turns out these almonds are really easy to make – yay! I found this recipe, from allrecipes.com, and it is a great springboard for making these almonds to exactly suit your taste. Basically, you beat an egg white and some vanilla (or water) until frothy, stir in raw almonds, add sugar, salt and spices, and then bake with an occasional stir… BAM! You’ve got your almonds!

This is all you need!

For us, we need a LOT of cinnamon… waaaayyyy more than the original recipe calls for. It might seem like too much, but if you think about it, those street fair cinnamon almonds always have a big punch of cinnamon flavor. And we are big cinnamon-heads (is that a thing?) over here. When we make cinnamon toast, our cinnamon sugar has LOADS of cinnamon in it, and for our french toast, we like a generous dusting of straight cinnamon… you get the picture. So I knew I was on the right track when I increased the cinnamon by a ridiculous amount.

Ready to combine.

Finally, I had a bit of an accident the first time I made these. Two of the almonds ended up on the bottom of the oven, so they were a tiny bit scorched. I pulled them out, and found that I liked them better than the rest of the batch! So I increased the oven temp by a tad and baked the rest of the almonds for another half hour so they would be well roasted. Sometimes accidents make for really good recipes!

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

(Adapted from Cinnamon-Roasted-Almonds)

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (or water)
  • 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 scant teaspoon kosher/sea salt (or 3/4 teaspoon table salt)
  1. Preheat oven to 250°, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg white with vanilla (or water) until very frothy, but not stiff.
  3. In small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Add sugar mixture to almonds and mix well.
  5. Dump almonds onto the baking sheet, and spread out to a single layer using the back of a spoon.
  6. Bake on center rack of oven, stirring every 15 minutes or so, for one hour.
  7. After one hour, turn oven heat up to 300° and bake for another 25 minutes to half hour (no more stirring necessary). *
  8. Let cool completely on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note: *If your oven runs hot, you may need to be careful about this extra half hour at higher temperature. Keep a close eye on your almonds!

Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Snacks | Leave a comment

Cinnamon Oat Pecan Scones

Okay, first off, it has been a very long time since I have posted anything. I’ve been baking up a storm, but for some reason, not blogging. Maybe because the kids were home all the time over summer break? I’m not sure, but today I feel like writing about these scones. There were lots of other recipes I thought I was going to write about, but no. This is the one.

Nubbly, hearty scones, just the way I like them.

For the record, this recipe is based on my Oat Scones with Maple Glaze recipe. It’s a quicker, easier version, with no glaze. I’m a little shocked, but I think I like these scones more! As is often the case, I came up with this version kind of by accident, and kind of through constant experimentation. Jacques Pépin says that a recipe is just a snapshot in time, and I can’t agree with him more.

Millie, cozy with our cat Tillie.

We are in our third week of the new school year, and it has been quite a challenge for all of us. Having our kids go from mostly “remote” learning to full-time, in person school is quite a shock to all of our systems. And mostly for our Millie, who is starting middle school. I must admit that the quarantine was a very cozy situation for our family, as we do like to be at home puttering around, whether in the kitchen baking, or out in the garden, or sitting reading a book or watching The Great British Baking Show.

Millie and I, baking in the kitchen together.

With emotions running high, I have been making all of the girls’ favorite breakfast baked goods, such as waffles, pancakes, and zucchini bread, in hopes of making the school mornings a bit more cheerful. So last night, as I was giving Millie a good night hug, she whispered to me, “Please make scones“… it kind of gives a whole new meaning to whispering sweet nothings in one’s ear.

Cinnamon Oat Pecan Scones

  • 2 cups (240 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (optional)
  • 3/4 cup (more or less) heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400° and set a baking sheet into the oven.
  2. Line second baking sheet (of the same size) with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together the first seven ingredients.
  4. Add the cubes of butter and cut into the flour/sugar mixture with a pastry cutter until the butter is mostly incorporated, but still having some pieces of butter the size of small peas. In other words, don’t mix it in completely!
  5. Stir in the pecans and turbinado sugar.
  6. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and pour in about half a cup of the heavy cream. Using a spatula, stir from the edge of the bowl in wide, swift circles, incorporating the cream until the mix starts to come together. If it is still too dry and floury, drizzle more cream a little bit at a time over the dry bits, until the dough is almost coming together, but is still a bit dry and crumbly.
  7. In the bowl, flatten the dough with spatula, and fold it over onto itself a couple times. Transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet and make a circle with the dough that is about 9 inches in diameter. Shape it quickly with your hands, pressing the crumbly bits together. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the circle into 8 wedges, and separate them so there is about an inch of space between each one. Don’t worry if it seems a bit crumbly and messy; just pick up any loose crumbs and put them on top of the cut scones.
  8. Nest the baking sheet with the scones inside of the preheated baking sheet, and bake the scones for 15 to 18 minutes – the scones should be browned around the edges and just barely light brown on the tops.
  9. Let scones cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling. Can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Day old scones are just as good heated up in a 250° oven for 5 minutes.

Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen! | 4 Comments

Lemon-Pistachio Bars

The other day we had Sue and Andy over for afternoon tea. I sweetened the deal (no pun intended) by making lemon-pistachio bars. I was curious about a recipe in NYT Cooking, so of course I had to try it. We are all completely vaccinated now, so we got to be inside without masks. It was amazing. And here’s why. Sue and Andy are just some of my favorite people. And Sue has the greatest smile and the best laugh. She doesn’t hold back on her laugh. She laughs with complete and utter abandon, and it makes everyone want to laugh with her. And to be able to see her beautiful smile without a mask was a true gift.

Family fun from a few years back. Sue has the pale green sweat jacket on. Her smile!

So as we tested out the lemon-pistachio bars, we all gave our opinions about them. I of course had tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes – I increased the filling by half, because who doesn’t want more lemon filling? I added more lemon and more zest for a bit more zing. And I sprinkled the pistachios on top of the filling instead of mixing them in. I also processed the pistachios with the crust so they would be finer and not in larger chunks.

Sue said she thought she might like the pistachios in larger chunks in the crust. Andy said he liked the extra lemon. I also made some without pistachios sprinkled on top, but decided I liked them better with the pistachios, mainly because of how pretty the craggy little tops were.

Any way you make them (this recipe is very versatile), these lemon bars are delicious, and surprisingly easy to make (who knew?).

Lemon-Pistachio Bars

(Adapted from Molly O’Neill’s recipe)

For the crust:

  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios

For the filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) grated lemon zest
  • 7 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
  • powdered sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line an 8″ x  8″ square pan with parchment paper – I like to use a long rectangle of parchment that is 8″ wide, and then about 16 inches in length. That way you don’t have to mess with extra parchment scrunching up in the corners of the pan, and the length makes it so that you have nice “handles” to work with.
  3. Place flour, confectioner’s sugar, salt, and pistachios in food processor, and pulse a few times. Add butter and process until well combined.
  4. Firmly press mixture into the bottom of the lined pan, making it as even as possible. I press quickly with my fingers, using a piece of parchment as a barrier between my fingers and the crust. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
  5. While crust is baking, whisk together all of the filling ingredients (but NOT the pistachios and powdered sugar).
  6. When crust is lightly browned, remove from oven. Pour filling ingredients on the crust and bake for about 20 minutes, until set. About 10 minutes into the bake time, pull the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the finely chopped pistachios on top of the filling. Put back in the oven and finish baking.
  7. Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight for best texture and flavor. Gently pull the lemon bar slab out of the pan by holding on to the edges of the parchment paper; it’s okay if it bends a teeny bit. Sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar. Cut into 2″ x 2″ squares with a sharp knife, wiping the knife between cuts with a damp cloth.
  8. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.

 

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Cookies, Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | Leave a comment

Chicken Posole

Today is May 5th, otherwise known as Cinco de Mayo. I didn’t really think about it until we were in our back yard having lunch with our friend Chris, and he mentioned it. We were eating posole, which I just recently started making. It was festive and accidentally perfect!

Chris is front, left. Hubby is taking the picture.

I got the recipe through a friend on FaceBook; the recipe comes from Taste of Home. This is a very easy shortcut recipe, which is sometimes just what I need. You know, add a can of this and a can of that. For years now, I have strolled down the grocery aisles and stared longingly at the bag of dried corn to be used for posole (requires overnight soaking), along with the beautiful dark red dried peppers of all kinds (also require a hecka lotta work). And I ask myself if my kids will eat it, and the answer is surely NO. So do I want to go through all the work involved to make this soup from super-scratch? The answer is also surely NO.

Green Posole

So I was pretty excited when a friend posted this easy recipe. This version (it is a green posole, using green peppers instead of red ones) is still delicious, with a bit of spicy heat and lots of brothy goodness. And the husband loves it. The recipe calls for pork, but I wanted to make it with chicken. The recipe also calls for beef broth, but I opted for chicken broth. You can really just change it up to suit your tastes; I mean, if you are going to make a shortcut recipe, why suddenly be a purist? Chris said he liked it with lots of lemon or lime, so I recommend serving it with lemon or lime wedges and plenty of fresh cilantro (and any other accompaniments, such as thinly shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, avocado…), and tortilla chips on the side.

Chicken Posole

(Adapted from Land of Enchantment Posole)

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large can (25 ounces) hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 2 small cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • fresh cilantro (for garnish)
  • lemon or lime wedges (for garnish)
  1. Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a heavy dutch oven and saute the onion until translucent – just a few minutes.
  2. Add cubed chicken and saute all sides until there is no more pink.
  3. Add crushed garlic and saute for another minute.
  4. Add the chicken broth, hominy, chilies, salt, cumin, oregano and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for about an hour.
  5. Serve with fresh cilantro and any other accompaniments you like. Makes 4 hearty servings. Enjoy!

Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen!, Soups | Leave a comment

Bourbon and Spice Cannelés

Well, I kind of can’t believe I am even making these. You may ask, what on earth are those??? A couple of months ago, a friend of mine dropped some of these little gems off for me as a gift. They are called Cannelés de Bordeaux. I had never had them before, or even seen them. They are little vanilla rum custards with a crispy caramelized exterior.

I was unsure, but I kept trying them, and they grew on me. I had to make them. I even bought a special pan for them. Here is a link for the pan, in case you get tempted to make these yourself.

This pan works so nicely!

I played around with a couple of recipes. The recipe I found that I liked the best was this one, from Entertaining with Beth. I thought they were good, but I was curious, because after doing a lot of research, I discovered that most cannelés recipes had twice the amount of sugar, so I decided to up the sugar, and the result was much better, in my opinion. More sugar = better caramelization. I also wanted a more traditional exterior, so instead of using baking spray, I used unsalted butter with a small amount of beeswax from a local beekeeper… yep, that’s right. This gives the exterior a certain je ne sais quoi.

But I have to say, I am not a huge fan of the flavor of rum, and neither are my kids. I was also talking to my friend Stephanie (my daughters refer to her and her family as the Californians), and she agreed that rum was not her favorite. So I decided to play around with some ideas. My kids and I love pumpkin pie spices, and since my secret ingredient for pumpkin pie is bourbon, I decided to try to make these cannelés with bourbon and pumpkin pie spices: success!!! I know it’s not traditional at all, but we really like them this way, and they still have the delicious crispy caramelized exterior, and a yummy custard center. And in case you were wondering, the alcohol cooks out completely, so these are not boozy at all. Just yummy. And so very pretty.

Warning: this batter needs to rest in the fridge for a couple of days before using, so plan ahead!

Bourbon and Spice Cannelés

(Adapted from this recipe)

  • 2 cups (475 ml) whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp (45 grams) salted butter
  • 1 scant cup (~190 grams) sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp good quality bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla paste
  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur flour)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter for the pan
  • 1 scant tsp food-grade beeswax for the pan (optional)
  1. In medium saucepan, combine the milk, salted butter, and sugar. Heat until butter has melted, stirring all the while. Remove from heat.
  2. In large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt, bourbon and vanilla. Slowly temper the eggs by ladling a small amount of the warm milk into them, whisking continuously. Continue to add the milk little by little until all has been incorporated.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and spices. Sprinkle the flour mixture little by little into the wet ingredients, whisking vigorously. Continue until all the flour has been incorporated.
  4. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a 4-cup mason jar. Cover and refrigerate for at least one day, but two days is better, and if you forget and let it sit for four days, it’s still good! Ask me how I know…
  5. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 450°. Make sure your oven preheats for a solid 15 to 20 minutes. While it is preheating, melt the unsalted butter and smidge of beeswax (if using) in a small skillet. Brush the inside of twelve cannelé tins with the butter/beeswax mixture using a pastry brush.
  6. Stir batter gently, as it will have settled and separated in the fridge. Don’t panic! Use a whisk if you need to, to break up the top layer. Mix gently so you don’t add too much air to the batter, but you don’t want any lumps either.
  7. I weighed my batter, and I ended up having about 70 grams of batter per cannelé. I like to weigh the batter so that the cannelés bake evenly. If you don’t feel like doing that, just make sure that you leave about a half inch of space at the top of each tin. The cannelés rise as they bake and they need room, otherwise they will mushroom out of the tins and be misshapen.
  8. Bake at 450° for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 375° and bake for about 45 to 55 minutes more. The cannelés should be a dark golden brown color.
  9. Place a cooling rack on top of the cannelé pan and flip over to get the cannelés out of the pan. If the rounded little tops look pale, place the pan back on top of the cannelés and flip the entire thing back over to get the cannelés back into the pan. Put back in the oven and bake for another ten minutes and check again. They are done when they have nice even color. Let cool for several hours before enjoying. They can be stored at room temperature for two to three days, if they last that long.

Add the warm milk slowly to the egg mixture.

Add the flour mixture little by little.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Pour into a mason jar, cover, and store in fridge.

Batter has separated; no big deal.

Mix with whisk.

For the pan, just a little of each.

Coat the tins.

Weigh out the batter. About 70 grams is good.

Make sure to leave half an inch space at the top. Don’t overfill!

The are rising in the oven.

But they sink back down.

Not ready!!! These need to go back into the oven.

Let cool for at least a couple of hours.

So cute!

 

 

Posted in Desserts, Fun in the kitchen! | 7 Comments

Almost Straub’s Chicken Salad

Today is my niece Olivia’s birthday. I got this recipe from her last week. For those of you that don’t know, Straub’s is an upscale grocery store in St. Louis. This recipe was posted here in St. Louis Today; it’s a copycat recipe of the much beloved chicken salad you can get at Straub’s. For the record, I’ve never had the real deal, but I was intrigued, and I sure did have fun talking to Olivia about it. And I have to admit that sometimes, I feel a bit of shock when I imagine that I’m chatting with my niece over text messages about a chicken salad, when it seems like it wasn’t that long ago that she was just little.

Me and Olivia; I think we were looking at a teeny flower.

I asked Olivia about some of the ingredients, like, did I really have to put celery seed in it? She answered that she thought that particular ingredient was key. Okay.

Me and Olivia, during one of my visits to St. Louis.

So I did make a special trip to Ballard Market, as they have spices in bulk, even during the pandemic. Thank you Ballard Market!

Olivia (right), playing with my daughter Mara (left)…. maybe 14 years ago???

I enjoyed making this chicken salad, especially because my niece Olivia loves it. I’m getting melancholy just writing this post, and don’t even talk to me about how my heart was aching (in a good way) while going through old photographs.

And now Olivia is a mom herself. Here she is with her son Henry.

I know, I know, is this post about chicken salad? Well, yes, yes it is. Kind of. Olivia and I agree that the chicken salad is much better if you let it rest in the fridge for a day to let the flavors mingle. We also both agree that the recipe needs to be doubled, so that is what I did.

Straub’s Chicken Salad

(Serves 4 to 6, original recipe here)

  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks
  • 1 rib celery, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 to 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1.5 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp finely diced celery
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock, water, carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf, and peppercorns to a boil.
  2. Add the chicken breasts, making sure there is enough liquid to cover them completely, by an inch or so. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken is done.
  3. Remove chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Save broth for other uses (or, you can save it and use it to make chicken salad again!)
  4. When cool, shred the chicken into 1 inch pieces (you should have about 4 cups worth, more or less) and mix with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery seed, salt, diced celery, and white pepper.
  5. Place in airtight container in fridge for 24 hours.
  6. When ready to serve, give the salad a good stir, taste and adjust for seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Enjoy!

Henry and his mama, Olivia

And just for fun…

My sister Linda (Olivia’s mom), me, my sister Jane, and Olivia, front and center.

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen! | 4 Comments

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Lately I have been making my sourdough bread in a loaf pan, and we are all loving it! So many reasons why. It makes great uniform slices for sandwiches, toast, french toast… and the crust, while crispy, is a little softer on the sides and bottom, making it easier to get thin, even slices. All the while having that fantastic sourdough flavor. I’m sold. Now don’t get me wrong. I still feel all dreamy when I make a free form loaf, and it looks like something that just came from a French bakery.

The recipe is the same. The baking vessel is different. That’s it! So I’m going to share with you my latest favorite recipe. I use three different kinds of flour, but it works just fine using only unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour please!!!!) or mix of all-purpose and bread flour. I tend to experiment all the time, but I like this one so much that I actually wrote it down.

All of the flours that I use are King Arthur flours. The results are consistently wonderful (which is shocking!). I highly recommend using King Arthur flour if it is available where you are. A secret ingredient when using whole grain flours in your breads is diastatic malt powder. I only use a small amount (1 teaspoon), but I believe it helps with the rise, and adds to the flavor of the bread. It’s optional, so if you don’t have it, no big deal. No need to replace it with something else, but if you feel so inclined, you can use a teaspoon of honey or molasses during the water/starter mix. Or nothing at all. The magic of sourdough bread is that all of that deliciousness is just flour, water, and salt… and starter, of course.

Okay, get ready, because here is how to make this bread. Don’t panic that it has two overnight rests in the fridge. I designed it that way to suit my schedule. In fact, the first time I did it, the first overnight in the fridge was a mistake, but it worked so well for my schedule that now I do it almost every time. And those two overnight rests will improve the flavor of your bread! I will include a picture tutorial at the bottom of the post.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

(Can take up to 36 hours or longer, but with very little hands-on time)

  • 375 grams (filtered if possible) room temperature water
  • 50 grams ripe (fed) starter
  • 170 grams King Arthur Bread Flour
  • 130 grams King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 200 grams King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 12 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)*
  • Unsalted butter for buttering the pan

Day #1:

  1. In the morning, feed your sourdough starter. If you keep your starter in your refrigerator, you may want to start feeding it a day or two before to get it nice and active, and leave it on your counter between feedings.
  2. Once your starter has just about tripled in size (this can take a while… 6 to 8 hours, and it’s okay if you wait a little longer to use it), in a medium bowl, whisk 375 grams water and 50 grams starter together until well combined and milky in color. You can use a fork or a dough whisk for this.
  3. Add flours**, salt, and malt powder, if using.
  4. Mix (I like to use a dough whisk) until all the flour is incorporated and you cannot see any dry bits. Dough will look shaggy and messy.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (or something similar) and let sit for an hour. This resting period is called the autolyse. (a true autolyse would not include salt or malt powder, but after forgetting to add those later a couple of times, I decided that it works just fine to combine everything together in the beginning.)
  6. After an hour, mix the dough until it is smooth and cohesive. Using a wet hand (I keep a bowl of water handy), grab the dough from the side of the bowl and press it into the center. Rotate the bowl and continue to grab and press until you’ve gone around a couple of times. This should take maybe 30 seconds. Flip the dough over in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge to rest overnight. You are just putting things on hold until the next day, while developing flavor in the dough.

Day #2:

  1. The next day, in the morning, pull the dough out of the fridge. It will look pretty much the same way it looked when you put it in the fridge. Give the dough one set of stretch and folds, then cover and repeat 30 minutes or so later, always covering the dough between sets. Repeat again two more times, so that you will have done 4 sets total of stretch and folds over the course of two to three hours. Normally it’s within the first two hours, but since the dough is so cold, I find I have more wiggle room. To do a set of stretch and folds, wet both hands with water and grab the dough from the side of the bowl that is farthest away from you. Stretch it straight up, and then fold it all the way to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl half way around and repeat. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. Then turn the bowl half way around and repeat. This is one set of stretch and folds. Warning: since the dough is very cold, it will feel more like pulling taffy than working with a slack dough, which is fine. It’s actually easier. When you have completed your sets of stretch and folds, leave the dough in the covered bowl on your kitchen counter for about ten hours, or until it has doubled in size, is jiggly, billowy, and has a bubble or two on the top. (Note: if you only have time or patience to do one or two sets of stretch and folds, that’s fine as well. But if you can, do all four.)
  2. About ten hours later, once the dough has doubled in size and is jiggly, gently scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface using a spatula or bowl scraper. It is time to preshape your dough. Take your fingers and slide them under the sides of the dough and gently stretch the dough out a little bit to make a large circle. Fold the sides of the dough into the center, starting at one side and continuing until you have gone all the way around. Flip the whole thing over with the assistance of a bench scraper or bowl scraper. The dough will be “smooth side up”. Let rest for 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, butter a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Mine is non-stick. If yours is not non-stick, butter the pan, then place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and butter it as well.
  3. After the ten minutes is up and you have prepared your pan, it’s time for the final shaping of your dough. Flour the top of the dough and flip the dough over. Gently pull the sides of the dough to shape it into a rectangle with the short side facing you. Fold the right side into the middle, then the left side, overlapping just a bit. Take the short side that is farthest from you and start to roll the dough toward yourself, tucking it under itself as you go. Roll it all the way so that it looks like a cinnamon roll. With cupped, floured hands, draw the dough towards you so that the seam come together underneath the roll, and you create tension on the outside of the dough. Do this a couple of times until you feel the dough has adequate tension. Don’t go overboard. If you like, gently pull each side of the dough down and tuck underneath to cover the spiral.
  4. Using your floured hand and a bench scraper or bowl scraper, pick up the dough lengthwise and plop it into your prepared loaf pan seam side down, pulling the scraper away quickly so you don’t get tangled up in there. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on your kitchen counter for 45 minutes to an hour. Place in fridge and let rise overnight.

Day #3

  1. It is Day #3 and you are ready to bake! You can start anytime you like, but I prefer to bake in the morning. Preheat your oven to 500°. Take your loaf out of the fridge (it should have risen significantly) and leave on the counter, covered, for one hour while the oven preheats. Yes, one hour. A few minutes before the hour is up, uncover your dough, sprinkle it lightly with flour and, using a sharp knife or razor blade, make a cut lengthwise across the dough, about 1/4 inch deep (this is called scoring). If you like, you can cut some designs into the dough with very shallow cuts, but don’t let those interfere with the larger cut.
  2. Pull out a turkey roaster – the one I use is 14 1/4″ in length and 6 inches tall – and pour a tablespoon or two of water into the bottom divots of the roaster. Place your loaf into the roaster, put the lid on the roaster, and put the whole thing in the oven. IMMEDIATELY turn your oven temperature down to 450°. Bake the loaf covered for 20 minutes. Take the cover off, turn the temperature down to 435° and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven (it should register around 205° on an instant read thermometer) and take it out of the pan. If you turn the loaf upside down and tap on the bottom, the loaf should sound hollow. Let the bread cool on a cooling rack for at least two hours before cutting into it.
  3. To store bread, once it has completely cooled, keep in a plastic bread bag. Bread will stay fresh for two to three days this way.

Notes:

*If you choose to replace the diastatic malt powder with either honey or molasses, add it in with the water/starter mix. This is optional, and I only recommend it when using whole grain flours.

**If you don’t have all three types of flours, you can make this bread with just all-purpose flour, or a combination of bread flour and all-purpose flour. Or all bread flour! Just make sure the total weight of flour is 500 grams, and if you are using a whole grain flour, only have it be up to 1/3 of the total weight. Up to one half is fine, but your bread will start to be a little dense. And stick with King Arthur flours if at all possible for best results.

***Most of my inspiration comes from Emilie Raffa, of The Clever Carrot. Her book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, is really wonderful for walking you through the process and making it all very accessible. She includes lots of fun recipes, and they are all so very good! I turn to her book again and again for new ideas that don’t overwhelm.

Picture Tutorial!

50 grams of ripe starter floating in 375 grams of water. Yes, the starter looks like that.

Mix until milky.

Add flours – 170 grams bread flour, 130 grams white whole wheat, 200 grams all-purpose.

Then add 12 grams salt and 1 tsp diastatic malt powder (optional).

Mix until flour is incorporated. This is good enough.

Cover with plastic wrap (or other) and let sit for one hour (the autolyse).

After 1 hour rest, mix dough until smooth, using wet hand – video here: https://youtu.be/lV7eorybckc

Should look something like this. Cover and put in fridge overnight.

Take dough out of fridge the next morning. Dough has relaxed a bit.

Do a set of stretch and folds every 30 minutes or so. This is the stretch.

This is the fold, bringing the dough all the way across. One set = four of these.

Looks like this after four sets of stretch and folds. Cover and let rise on your counter.

About ten hours later this dough is jiggly and ready to be shaped.

Scrape onto floured work surface.

Using fingers, gently stretch the sides of the dough to make a large circle.

Fold edges of dough into the center.

Work your way all the way around.

Here is a video of the preshape I made for my friend Sandy: https://youtu.be/Jkn54efAqD4

Flip the dough over. Editing courtesy of my photographer. She is ten.

Tuck the edges of the dough under just a bit so it is kind of a rectangle.

Let dough rest for ten minutes.

Butter your 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with unsalted butter.

After ten minute rest, lightly flour the top of your dough.

Flip the dough over so smooth side is down. Stretch out to a rectangle.

Fold right side over.

Now fold left side over.

Starting at the top, start to roll the dough toward yourself.

Keep rolling, tucking dough gently into itself.

Looks like a cinnamon roll.

Pull top of dough over to cover the spiral.

Using cupped hands, draw dough toward yourself to bring seam together at the bottom and create tension in dough.

You can also do this with a bowl scraper or bench scraper.

Here’s a video I made for my friend Sandy for the final shaping: https://youtu.be/-eHX08X6VGI

Plop the loaf into the pan *smooth side up*.

Cover and let sit on your counter for 45 minutes or so, then put in the fridge for an overnight rise.

The next morning the dough has risen! Preheat oven to 500° and let dough sit on counter for one hour.

Lightly flour top of dough. This makes the scoring (cutting) easier.

Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make a 1/4″ deep cut all the way across.

Looks like this.

You can add designs with shallow cuts if you wish.

Pour a tablespoon or two of water into the divots on bottom of turkey roaster.

Place loaf in roaster.

Really.

Put the lid on! Then the whole thing goes into the oven covered. TURN OVEN DOWN TO 450°!!!!!!

After 20 minutes, remove the lid and turn oven down to 435°. Bake for another 25 minutes uncovered.

Take loaf out of oven and check temperature. Should be between 205 and 210….

Let bread cool on rack for at least two hours. Enjoy!

Beautiful blistered crust.

Perfect for sandwiches!

And toast!

Enjoy!

 

Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Sourdough, Yeasty Things | 3 Comments