Archive | August, 2010

First(!) Daring Baker’s Challenge: Baked Alaska

27 Aug

The first and last time I had Baked Alaska was when Mr. Kitchen Misfit and I (still only just dating at the time) went to Sardi’s in NYC. It was INSANELY expensive ($22) but it was huge and it was delicious. Plus they lit it on fire right in front of you. And we were on vacation. So spending $22 on dessert was deemed to be acceptable.

This was my first daring baker’s challenge and so I was really excited to get into it. (If you don’t know what the Daring Baker’s Challenge is, check it out here). I have to tell you, this was definitely a dish that took ALL.DAY. but in the end, I was very impressed with myself.

Anywho, onto the fun stuff…..

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

First off was the brown butter pound cake. You can find the recipe for it here, I followed it pretty much exactly.

I was nervous about a couple things. One, this is H-E-A-V-Y on the butter. Lots of butter. Mounds of it.

Now THAT'S what I call a lot of butter

See? I wasn’t kidding. And I was very very afraid of burning it. I kept checking to make sure it was the right color and continually asking the hubby if it looked right.

But thankfully it came out perfect.

Then, instead of making a whole cake, I decided to divide the mix into 4 large ramekins. I didn’t want to overload on the Baked Alaska, since I was only making it for my husband and myself, so dividing it up made sense.

Next came the ice cream. I brought out my handy dandy Perfect Scoop book and settled on making a raspberry cheesecake ice cream. Recipe is as follows:

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Ice Cream

Recipe from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop

For the cream cheese ice cream

  • 8 oz cream cheese (I used light)
  • 1 lemon rind
  • 1 cup sour cream (I used light)
  • .5 cup half and half
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

Cut cream cheese into small pieces and place into blender. Add rest of ingredients and puree until smooth. Chill thoroughly and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instruction.

For the raspberry swirl

  • 2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen`
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp freshly squeeze lemon juice

Puree raspberries in a food processor with the sugar and water until smooth. If you prefer, press the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds. Or, if you are lazy like me, skip that step.

Afterwards, I took out 2 of my mini brown butter cakes and filled the ramekins with the cheesecake ice cream and raspberry sauce, alternating until I reached the top. Then I stuck them in the freezer to freeze thoroughly. I don’t have a torch, so I had to stick my Baked Alaska’s in the oven in order to get the brown crunch and I wanted to make sure that my ice cream was frozen solid.

Next up, the meringue. This proved to be the hardest part of all, and resulted in me having to throw away the first batch because I couldn’t get the eggs stiff enough. The second batch was more successful, although I still would have liked them to be stiffer.

Lemon Meringue

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6-8 tbsp sugar

This recipe is on the small side because I only made enough meringue to cover 2 of the Baked Alaskas. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high using an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Mix in the sugar 1 tbsp at a time until fully dissolved, then mix until stiff peaks form.

At this point, I took my ice cream disks out of the freezer, cut off the tops of my mini brown butter cakes, and stuck the ice cream on top. I smothed it out a little and slathered on the meringue. In hindsight, I should have put more meringue, but I didn’t. Oh well. Then I put them back in the freezer for another hour or so before placing them in a 500 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or when there was enough browning for my liking.

Now, before I reveal the beautiful end product (ignore the fact that you’ve already seen it up top there) I wanted to show you what my kitchen looked like after this entire process.

Pretty, no?

Don’t worry, I cleaned it up. In the end, it was all worth it. I enjoyed it, the husband enjoyed it. It was a success all around. But don’t count on me making it again anytime soon!

 

I have to say, not bad for my first Daring Baker’s Challenge. Looking forward to the next one!

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Dill & Mustard Potato Salad

24 Aug

The weather out here in Boston is making me wish it was 90 degrees out and sweating. Well, almost. If this were November, we might be buried in snow right now, since it hasn’t stopped raining since sometime yesterday morning and won’t be stopping until at least tomorrow. In Boston, we’re never happy with the weather. It’s either too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too sunny, too much snow. We’re always complaining about the weather, just don’t mention that to us.

So what’s one thing that takes me back to the dog days of summer? Honest to goodness good ol’ American potato salad. If potato salad doesn’t scream summer, then I’m not wearing flannel pants and a sweatshirt and complaining of being cold in the middle of August (I am, just to make sure you’re keeping up). I recently made this potato salad for a BBQ that seems like it was AGES ago (It really was only 3 weeks ago, someone PLEASE tell me where summer went? K thanks), and everyone raved about it. What is great about this potato salad and any potato salad really, is that it’s so versatile. You can pretty much add and subtract any ingredient willy-nilly. Like extra creamy potato salad? Add more mayo. Like it to be a bit more tart? Add a smidge of extra mustard. Hate eggs? Get rid of ’em. Sweet potatoes? Why not?

And if you think this salad should only be made in summer, well, you are most certainly wrong.

Dill & Mustard Potato Salad

  • 2-3lbs red bliss potatoes
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 cup light mayo
  • 1/2 cup mustard (I used Nathan’s)
  • 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill (ok to use dried)
  • 2 chives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes, skin still on, in a big pan and cover with water. Sprinkle liberally with salt and bring potatoes to a boil. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on how soft you like your potatoes. I personally like mine on the slightly harder side. Drain and place aside to cool.

Combine all remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Combine with cooled potatoes and stick in the fridge until ready to serve. Ready. Set. Consume.

Brie and Fig Pizza

20 Aug

I love making homemade pizza. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic pizza places in my area (Pino’s & Presto’s to name a few) but sometimes it doesn’t get any better than a homemade pizza. The possibilities are endless and it only ends with your imagination. It’s just about as easy as picking up the phone and ordering one.

When I first started making homemade pizza I usually bought the dough at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Then one day I actually made pizza dough and never looked back. As of right now my go-to pizza recipe is straight from the King Arthur Flour Site. It’s pretty straightforward, but I have to admit the instructions get a little too complicated to my taste. After the intial rise for the dough I wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refridgerator overnight. Usually I make the pizza during the week so when I get home from work I’ll take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit out for about 30-45 minutes, until the dough is maleable. Then preheat the oven to 450 degrees and using my pizza stone I spray it with some cooking spray and throw a little flour on and shape my pizza dough. Sometimes I go for a traditional round but other times I feel like being more organic and just shape it until it covers the whole stone. Then I stick it in the oven for about 10 minutes. By precooking the dough, it has proved to be chewier and generally tastes better. Plus, if I’m using wetter ingredients it doesn’t seep through the dough and I don’t have to cook my ingredients as long.

The inspiration for this particular pizza is from a local restaurant called Figs, which is a Todd English restaurant. You see, they have an amazing Fig & Prosciutto pizza that is out of this world. The Mr. and I took our mothers there for Mother’s Day, and they raved about the pizza. Everytime we come here we order the same pizza. It’s so fabulous that we can’t even bother looking at the rest of the menu. This take on the pizza is a little different as I used a different fig paste and used Brie instead of Gorgonzola. It came out great and I was tempted to eat the entire pizza.

Fig & Brie Pizza

  • 5 or 6 dried figs, sliced thin (fresh is also good and reccomended, but didn’t have any when I went to Whole Foods, drats!)
  • 1 wedge of Brie – About half a cup
  • 4 or 5 slices of prosciutto
  • Fig jam or similar (I used one with orange and fig)
  • pizza dough

After shaping and baking your pizza dough, take it out of the oven and spread the fig jam liberally on the crust. Use the whole jar if you want! Next layer the sliced figs followed by the prosciutto and finally the brie. Drizzle with a little olive oil if you feel like it.

Stick in the oven for another 10-15 minutes – Until the brie is browned and gooey. Let stand for about 10 minutes until it has cooled down enough to cut through. Stuff self silly.

Meyer Lemon Bars

11 Aug

I love lemons. They are one of my favorite ingredients to use in cooking and baking. Since becoming a more avid baker/cook I’ve discovered meyer lemons. What are meyer lemons? Meyer lemons to me are a delicious combination of orange and lemon. Sweeter and more fragrant that regular lemons, they are great to use in a dessert. When I found them at a recent trip to Whole Foods I immediately grabbed some.

Mr. Kitchen Misfit’s Mom was having a BBQ for his birthday and I decided to use up my meyer lemons. I Googled extensively and found a great recipe for meyer lemon bars. I have to say, they were a huge hit and there were only 4 measly little bars left. I say that’s a successful recipe.

Meyer Lemon Bars

Adapted from Closet Cooking

For the crust

  • 1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt

For the lemon filling

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup meyer lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix in the flour and salt until it comes together. Press down into a greased 8-inch pan, using the back of a spoon to even it out. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix eggs and sugar until smooth. Mix in lemon juice and zest. Mix in the flour and pour onto crust. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Let cool and sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

I may have found a new love. His name is Meyer.

Stuffed Zucchini & Why Farmers Markets are Awesome

3 Aug

I love Farmer’s Markets. They make me really happy. Just knowing, 100% that I’m supporting local businesses makes my heart go a-flutter. I’m always insanely jealous of cities that have huge public markets, such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Seattle. When I visited Toronto I was in awe of the St. Lawrence Market and when I visited Borough Market in London I was just so JEALOUS that Boston didn’t have ANYTHING close to that.

Well, HALLELUJAH because Boston seems to FINALLY understand the need for a public market a la the locations listed above. It is in the inital planning stages, and won’t be opened for at least another year or two, but hey, at least we’re finally GETTING somewhere. Read the story here. If you are interested in helping support the creation of a year round public market in Boston, you can find more information here.

Anyway, I am lucky to have a Farmer’s Market right across the street from my office, so every Tuesday and Thursday I load up on fresh fruits and veggies (and occationally bread and cheese) and go to town on them. I recently spotted these beauties:

and I was VERY excited to bring them home and cook them up. I hollowed them out, stuffed some cous cous and other assorted items, stuck it in the oven and BAM! Amazing and healthy dinner.

Stuffed Zucchini

  • 4 Globe Zucchini *
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cooked chicken sausage links (I used spinach and feta)

*Note: I used only 2 globe zucchinis but I had enough filling left over that you could easily make 4 of them

First, take your zuccini’s and hollow them out. Don’t scrape too much of the meat out, but make sure you at least get rid of all the seeds. Discard the innards. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook the zucchini for 15 minutes.

While the zucchini is cooking get everything else together. Combine the chicken broth, and butter into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous and remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.

In another saute pan, coat with extra virgin olive oil and add the garlic and stir until the garlic is slightly brown, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the onion and pepper and cook an additional 3 minutes, until soft. Add the sausage and stir until the sausage is warmed through, maybe another minute or 2. Grab a medium size bowl and combine the cooked bits and the couscous. Add the lemon juice, rosemary and tomatos and mix together.

Stuff your zucchini with as much filling as possible.

Stick it in the oven for another 15 minutes. I served mine with a side of arugula salad with tomatos, onions, and balsamic vinegar. It’s definitely one filling meal!

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