Friday, August 27, 2010

August 2010 Daring Baker's Challenge - Brown butter and Ice Cream treats

I *almost* procrastinated myself out of this challenge...almost! And, then, I almost didn't post. I am really unhappy with this picture, BUT I ate the end product (the ones I didn't give away), so I can't recreate it before the deadline in a few hours!

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 Alasa or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I was instantly intrigued with the prospect of a brown butter dessert. While I've had brown butter sauces, and made brown butter sauces, I have yet to try them in anything sweet. That was the main reason I wanted to do this challenge! And, as I saw a few of my fellow daring bakers complete their challenge, I knew I had to try it.

The result was messy, but delicious! The brown butter gave my pound cake a nuttiness that was so nice against the coffee ice cream and chocolate (or meringue).

I chose to make mini versions of each of these yummy treats. Each was about 2 bites, and decorated with colored marzipan. They were the perfect little bites. I have a few of what I call bonbons left in the freezer, and the combination of brown butter, coffee, and chocolate is really nice.

I spent almost an entire day trying to make tiny marzipan butterflies and learned a very important lesson - nori punches and marzipan really don't mix. I have not completely given up on the idea, but the marzipan has to be so thin to fit through the punch, it is extremely fragile then, and more than a little frustrating to deal with. That's why the bonbons have a marzipan circle with a small flower in the middle of them - after spending countless hours and obtaining 6 tiny butterflies, I then accidentally dropped them on the circles it is!

I made coffee ice cream, then the pound cake. My pound cake was a little dry. I think I overcooked it a little, but I knew it would be OK since the end product had so much chocolate and ice cream on it.

I wanted to give a few tips to anyone making these little treats that I learned along the way.

When you are browning the butter, don't use a non-stick pan. It's harder to see the color of the butter in a dark pan, so use the lightest one you have. At first, the butter will sort of "boil". That's just the water evaporating out. Be very careful once the butter stops bubbling, it can very easily burn.

If you want to make the petit fours, or 2 bite Baked Alaska's, the easiest way I found is to use a small cookie cutter. That was the best way for such a small bite. You could also use a melon baller for the ice cream, but my ice cream was frozen too hard for that.

My little bonbons and baked alaska's were so small, I had a few issues with them falling apart. The easiest way I found around that was to hold them together with a toothpick. After I took the picture and played with it a bit, I discovered that you can use a sugar syrup as a sort of glue to keep the ice cream attached to the pound cake.

I only used 2 egg whites for my meringues, so the recipe very easily can be reduced by that amount. I only used a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tarter (and 1/4 c. sugar), and they turned out beautifully.

The pound cake is a lovely recipe, but dries out very quickly. Keep a very close eye on it in the oven. I baked mine in a larger than 8x8 pan so I could have thinner cake, and the edges dried out a bit. They were still very edible, and I was able to make some cake balls with them. Just be careful.

Elisa - Thanks again for such a fun challenge. I got to do a few things I had not done before, and learned a lot. I had a blast!

Coffee Ice Cream

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
2-3 T. espresso powder
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, salt, espresso powder, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)

2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.

3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.

4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz:

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.

2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze (For the Ice Cream Petit Fours)

9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.

Meringue (For the Baked Alaska)

8 large egg whites
½ teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
½ teaspoon (3g) salt
1 cup (220g) sugar

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly Instructions – Ice Cream Petit Fours

1. Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.

2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.

3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.

4. Make the chocolate glaze (see above.)

5. While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm).

6. Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it.

7. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.

Assembly Instructions – Baked Alaska

1. Line four 4” (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.

2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.

3. Make the meringue (see above.)

4. Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.

5. Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.

6. Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaskas on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


It's amazing, isn't it? That 2 days of work can be distilled into one picture. Yes, this is a pic of the best of the best, but that does puzzle me sometimes. It was a lot of fun making these, though.

For those of you that could possibly be intimidated by a large recipe, don't look, this is pretty long. So long that I've created a PDF file with the recipe as well as how to get these cool shapes, and I will link it below.

And, yes, I know that these aren't technically authentic danishes. But, where I'm from (the Pacific Northwest), when you ask for a danish in a restaurant, this is what you get - this tender, flaky pastry dough topped with a sweet filling.

Wow, I had so much to say about these, but writing the recipe out took so much energy, I'm quite speechless.

I made these for a friend of mine in Oregon. As some of you know, I worked my way through college as a sports statistician. Last year, when I heard there was a semi-pro team in my county (the GH Bearcats), I contacted one of the owners to volunteer to help them with stats. I created my own stat sheets, including halftime and game reports, and have been doing it ever since. It's fun, and gives me a lot to do. I like to have some sort of purpose when I get behind the wheel of the car to go places, and going to their away games has been fun.

The last game of their regular season was in Medford (i.e. VERY far away). I met my friend Tim in Salem (which is about 1/2 way), and we drove down...well, he drove down and back in my car. Such a great friend to shoulder 1/2 the driving on that day. I'm so happy that I took him some of these great danishes (and some of my jams)!

These danishes are soo good. The dough freezes well, too. So you can shape them and freeze them in shape. Then just thaw in the refrigerator and bake them fresh!

The dough is what's called a laminated dough. All that means is there's butter layers in the dough that make it flakey when you bake it. Kind of like croissants. Well, exactly like croissants! The difference between this dough and croissants is it has more eggs and sugar, and is flavored with cardamom and vanilla. Although the recipe can look intimidating, trust me, it's not at all. Give it a try, you will be very happy with the results.

Also, if you do want to try the recipe, download the printable pdf.

Danish Pastries
Adapted from Nick Malgieri

¾ cup milk
2 T. yeast (or 2 packages)
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
½ t. cardamom
4 T butter, lightly chilled and cut into small chunks

1/3 c. flour
3 ½ sticks (14 oz) unsalted butter, slightly chilled

Heat milk to lukewarm, about 100 degrees. This took me about 40 seconds in the microwave on 75% power. Whisk in yeast and a little sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until yeast starts to bubble. In the mixing bowl of a large mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and butter. Process until butter has been incorporated into the dry ingredients.

Add cardamom, vanilla, eggs, and milk mixture. Mix just until mixture forms a ball. If it does not form a ball, add up to ¼ c. flour at a time until dough forms a ball. Scrape dough out onto a floured work surface and cover with a towel. Let rest 5 minutes. Gently knead dough 6 or 8 times, adding more flour if dough is soft or very sticky. Dough should have enough flour to just come together and be soft, but not too sticky. Place in refrigerator and refrigerate 1-8 hours. When you are ready to work with the dough, prepare the butter

For the butter: Place a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper on a work surface. Sprinkle ½ the flour over the wrap and put butter on top of flour. Sprinkle remaining flour over the butter and pound the butter with a rolling pin to make it malleable. Roll the butter into a cylinder.

Remove dough from refrigerator and press into a 6x12” rectangle. Cut the butter into dabs and place over the top 6” of the rectangle. Fold the non-buttered dough over the buttered portion and seal the edges.

Roll dough back to 6x12 and fold the ends of the 12” side towards the middle of the dough, and then fold again. Your final dough should be approximately 6x3. Repeat this 3 times, refrigerating the dough as the butter gets soft and the dough becomes hard to manage.

Double wrap the dough and refrigerate at least 2 hours, until ready to use. When ready to use, cut dough into 4 pieces, and roll into 4” strips. Cut each strip into 4x4” squares to shape the dough. Shape and fill with desired filling (see below).

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, and let finished, filled pastries rest 30 minutes at room temperature. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (if desired), and bake at 375 for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. Drizzle with glaze, if desired.


Cream Cheese – Combine 8 oz softened cream cheese ½ t. vanilla, 1 egg, and 1/3 cup sugar until smooth. Fill dough with ½ T. mixture before baking.

Raspberry Jam – Place 2 t. jam before baking

Apricot Jam – Place 2 t. jam in pastry before baking

Bear Claw filling – Purchase or make almond paste. Roll 2 t. into a rope approximately 3” long and use to fill. Top bear claws with sliced almonds to replicate the claws.

Icing (drizzle after pastry has cooled) – Combine 1 c. powdered sugar, ¼ t. vanilla or almond, 2 t. butter, and 1-3 t. milk until glazing consistency.

Egg Wash – Beat 1 egg with 2 t. water.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

(Leftover) Pork Tacos

I am often left with leftover bits of different proteins in my refrigerator. 1/2 a chicken breast, a piece of cooked pork loin from a roast, 1/2 a steak because the portion is usually way too big, etc.

Creatively using leftovers seem to be a theme lately. While I enjoy having some dinner leftovers to use the next day for lunch (an old time-saving trick from when I was on call 24x7 and barely had time to breathe), I was stuck in a rut. I have been creatively using leftovers from my baking, maybe it was time to spice things up with my dinners.

Enter the leftover pork taco. I created a quick sauce from some low sodium chicken broth, and was able to find a spice blend after fiddling around with it that is full of flavor, and just perfect. They tasted so good.

Since I prefer my tacos with a little bit of coleslaw instead of more traditional lettuce and tomato, I whipped up some quick coleslaw dressing to add to my tacos. It's just a great blend of flavors, and hit the spot for a warm summer night.

Even if you don't like coleslaw in your tacos, if you don't like cilantro, I encourage you to give this sauce a try. It will be great without those things, trust me. This sauce also works very well with leftover chicken (and tofu)!

"Leftover" Pork tacos
Makes 4-5 tacos
1 1/2 c. pork loin, cooked and cubed
15oz can low sodium chicken broth
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ancho chile powder
1/2 t. cumin
1/4 t. black pepper

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients, and let cook over medium heat until chicken broth is reduced by 75%. Add 1 t. lime juice and serve on tacos.

Coleslaw dressing

1/3 c. mayonnaise
2 T. low fat sour cream
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. sugar
2 t. lemon juice
2 cups shredded cabbage

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except cabbage. Add cabbage and mix well. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

For the tacos - I combine about 1/3 cup seasoned pork, 1/4 cup coleslaw, 1/4 avocado, and 2 t. chopped cilantro on a small heated corn tortilla shell.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fun with Blueberries - pancakes, muffins, and cheesecake, oh my!

This is the perfect combination - trust me. While I'm sure most of you knew about the amazing synergy that is blueberries and lemon, did you know about blueberries and ginger? I didn't, but I tried it, and it's amazing. Really, it doesn't take much for me to try something with ginger in it.

My what seems like addiction to blueberries really does have a reason. My SIL Kristie gave me a 1/2 flat of blueberries, so I had to think of things to do with them. Since I had already made blueberry butter, and a blueberry crumble tart (which didn't make the blog cut due to some seriously ugly pictures), I had to think of a few other things to do with them.

Of course, I turned to those favorite things for blueberries - pancakes and muffins. The idea of ricotta pancakes have intrigued me since I watched something on Food Network, so I thought I could find a good recipe and add some lemon, blueberries, and ginger...Well, I didn't like any of the recipes I found on the foodtv site, so I decided to work with the concept and modify the pancake recipe I use to incorporate these ingredients. Blueb

WOW! Those pancakes are amazingly delicious. These are the kind of pancakes that tasted so good, they didn't need anything else - no butter, no syrup, nothing at all.

Since I still had a lot of blueberries left over from the pancakes, my thoughts turned quickly to muffins. There's nothing better than blueberry muffins...unless of course you put lemon zest and grated ginger in them. These were great for breakfast the next day, they smelled like fresh lemons and the blueberry taste in them was just great! I was very happy with the recipe I found on Using buttermilk in blueberry muffins is a really nice way to accentuate the blueberries.

Finally, my thoughts turned to cheesecake. It had been a long time since I've made a cheesecake around here, maybe it's time to do that! I remember seeing on tastespotting a blueberry cheesecake bar, so I thought I could do something like that. I had a recipe for lemon cheesecake squares, so I adapted that recipe to add blueberries on top. While this recipe takes a little work, it's well worth the effort!

For these recipes, you can easily substitute frozen blueberries in the place of fresh. However, if you do, I recommend you don't thaw the berries before you add them to each recipe. For the muffins, coat them in 1 T. flour before folding into the batter to prevent your muffins turning purple.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 T. butter, melted
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 egg
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. lemon zest
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. grated ginger (you can use powdered ginger as well)
2 cups blueberries
2 T. sugar
2 t. cornstarch mixed with 2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. grated ginger

Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, cinnamon, and 2 T. sugar. Press mixture into the bottom only of an 8" square pan, and bake for 5 minutes.

While crust is cooling, beat cream cheese 1 minute with a mixer. Add egg, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 t. lemon zest, 1 T. lemon juice, salt, and 1/2 t. grated ginger. Pour mixture over cooled graham cracker crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until mixture no longer jiggles when pan is gently moved. Cool while you make blueberry sauce.

In a saucepan, combine blueberries and 2 T. sugar. Mash blueberries, and heat until mixture just starts to boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and 1/2 t. ginger. Taste and adjust sweetness, depending on your berries sweetness. Add sugar and lemon juice as needed.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Once slightly cooled, spread in an even layer over your cream cheese mixture. Cut into 2" squares and enjoy! Can be stored up to 2 days in your refrigerator.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
Zest of one lemon
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 c. buttermilk
2/3 c. vegetable oil
1/2 t. grated ginger
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375. Butter, spray, or put cupcake liners in 12 regular size muffin cups. If you are using cupcake liners, spray the top of the muffin pan before placing the liners in the muffin cups - this guarantees the muffins will not stick to the pan.

In a large bowl, mix together lemon zest, egg, buttermilk, and oil. In another large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger. Mix the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and stir gently until just combined. Fold in berries. It's important to not overmix your muffins, or they will be tough. When you stop seeing flour, stop mixing.

Fill each muffin cup near full, and bake for approximately 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out of the center of the muffins clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack for an additional 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, carefully remove from the muffin tins and enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

1 cup flour
1/4 t. grated ginger
1 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. lemon zest
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
3/4 c. milk
1 egg
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 to 3/4 c. blueberries

In a large bowl combine all ingredients except blueberries and mix until very well incorporated. There may be small lumps of ricotta remaining, that's fine.

Heat skillet or griddle until hot and a few drops of water "dance" across the surface when put on the griddle. Brush with a light coating of butter. Place batter in 2 T. portions on the surface, leaving at least an inch between each of the pancakes. Sprinkle a few blueberries over your pancake. Turn when bubbles form and pop on the surface, and the surface of your pancake starts to look dry around the edges. Repeat until all batter is gone.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Daring Cooks for August, 2010 - Perogi's!

Wow, I was so excited when I saw this month's daring cooks challenge - pierogi's! I've been wanting to make them for a very long time, and my family has been waiting for me to make them too!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I made 3 different kinds of pierogi's this time - potato and onion, potato, onion, and ground beef, and strawberry. While I was less than impressed with the strawberry ones (technical issues on my part), the savory ones were just fantastic.

This was also my inaugural use of my perogi makers, which I bought somewhere about 3 months ago, meaning to use them. They are great, by the way. And, I didn't know until I opened the container that you use them to cut the dough as well for the perfect circle of dough.

There are so many dumplings I want to make, so I was a little disappointed in myself that I only tried these few. I didn't make them at first since I was knee deep in jams and berry butters, and then I got distracted. I really wanted to fulfill the optional part of the challenge by making a local flavor, but all I could think of was seafood I can't eat and little wild blackberries that are amazingly scarce this year. The only other things I could think of weren't really in season. But, I was able to complete the challenge, and now I feel a bit more at ease for some future dumpling related projects I have coming up!

I learned a lot about sweet pierogi's, and I need to remember the most important thing I learned about fruit tarts and pierogi's - they work 100 times better if you cook the filling (and cool) before you fill the dumplings. Controlling moisture content is very important. That was my error when making the strawberry and cream ones. I realized after I had finished they would have been so much better if I had used strawberry jam or cooked the strawberries before I put them in the pierogi's, rather than use fresh ones.

I followed the recipes I was given for the most part for these. I added already cooked ground beef to the potato filling, and it was a great addition. If you haven't made pierogi's before, I encourage you to make these. The recipe was easy to follow, and the results are really tasty. The dough was very easy to roll out, and nice to work with. The scraps were a little tougher than the original dough, but still produced a very nice end result.

I fried most of mine after boiling in a non stick pan with a little bit of butter until browned. I just served them fried, and they were great. I can't wait to try them again very soon. Thanks again so much for sharing this recipe, and for such a great challenge!

I'm sharing one of the recipes given to us, although I take no credit for it. It's a great recipe, and you should give it a try!

Russian style pierogi (makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings)
(Traditional Polish recipe, although each family will have their own version, this is Anula's family recipe)

2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy (you can add more bacon if you like or omit that part completely if you’re vegetarian)
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi - this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Zucchini and Mushroom Bake

Vegetables never tasted so good. Really. This dish was inspired by left overs. A lot of my savory dishes lately seem to be inspired by leftovers. I had two small potatoes left over, and some onion jam. I also had some mushrooms and zucchini that I needed to use. For some reason I thought they would all taste well together.

The result? This dish is fantastic! The potatoes on the bottom were thinly sliced and got nice and golden, the onions were just a little sweet. The light layer of shredded cheese was nice and caramelized by the time all the vegetables were cooked and gave a nice crispy top crust. They both were a nice compliment to the earthy mushrooms and fresh zucchini. When I tasted this, I forgot I had cooked a pork loin, and just ate the veggies. The pork would have to wait another day.

This is a great dish for a side dish of vegetables, as well as a main dish if you want a vegetarian meal. And, it's very easy to make. You can substitute sauteed onions for the onion jam, and I think it would still be tasty. This will serve 4 easily as a side dish, or 2-3 as a main dish, with a salad or other vegetable dish.

A note on the seasoning. I consider gruyere and parmesan reasonably salty, so I didn't add a great deal of salt. The dish was perfectly seasoned for me, but you may need to add more salt, since I have a normally use a lower amount of salt that is called for in other recipes.

Zucchini Mushroom Bake

1 medium or 2 small yukon gold potatoes, cut into very thin slices
8 oz small button mushrooms, sauteed in 1 t. oil until very tender
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2" slices
2 T. onion jam, or 1/2 sweet onion, sauteed until light brown in 1 t. oil
4 oz. gruyere cheese, shredded
2 T. parmesan cheese, grated
2/3 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Mix two cheeses together. In a 9" deep dish pie pan, spray or lightly oil bottom to make sure your potatoes don't stick. Put one layer of sliced potatoes in the pan, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with a little of your salt and pepper. Place your onions evenly over the potatoes. Sprinkle with 1/3 of your cheese mixture. Top with sauteed mushrooms, then one even layer of your zucchini. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper, and remaining cheese mixture.

Bake in your oven for 35-45 minutes until the top is deep golden brown. Let cool 5-10 minutes, cut into wedges, and serve.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A quartet of Jams

I've been a very busy cook! I decided to take full advantage of the local produce that did grown this year, and make some jams. All with a little bit of a twist! I'm sure you were wondering why I was on a fruit butter tangent, and this is one reason. Stay tuned for my second installment on fruit butters coming soon!

The are (from the left): apricot pineapple cinnamon, onion (tiny jar in the middle bottom), raspberry, and strawberry rhubarb. I made all of them (except the onion) with low/no sugar pectin, and modified recipes. And, they are all delicious!

I wanted to share a few things I learned along the way, just in case you decide to make your own. Yes, this can be a daunting task, but it is 100% worth it. And, your friends and family will worship you! There's just something about home made jams that make them better.

First, and foremost, it's important to make sure you have all your tools and ingredients before you start. Read each recipe, know how to process jams, and know where you are going to put the hot jars once they are out of the water. It really pays off if you can buy/borrow a few things from a "canning kit". I bought one a few months ago, and it really does help. If you can't find them, the most helpful parts of the kit are: a magnetic lid lifter, a canning funnel, and a jar lifter. I bought the kit mainly because it was much cheaper as a kit than buying the individual pieces.

Make sure you have a clean workspace. You are working with several hot items, and need to work in a quick and efficient fashion. It helps if you stand in your kitchen and imagine what needs to be done. For me, I sterilized the jars in the same large pot I processed them in - in a very large stock pot. If you have a dishwasher, the dishwasher is easier. However, sterilizing them in the same pot you will process them in allows you to see how much water you need to add to the pot as well as if all the jars will fit in the pot.

I like to put my jars on a few kitchen towels to cool. It works very well. The other thing I can think of is a ladle. It helps a lot to have one to ladle the jam into the jars. One of the things that I thought was very handy was a 1 cup liquid measuring cup. You can use that to pour hot water over your lids, if you are using a hot water bath to seal your jars.

Your jars will seal easier if you have a clean towel handy, and wipe the tops of each of your jars before placing your lids on. I only had one jar not seal this year, so I must have done something right.

Also, on another note. I am more than happy to share my experiences, recipes, and ideas. However, your experience can vary, and I highly recommend using an easier recipe if you have never made jams before. Or, make freezer jams, and not have to worry about the lids and hot jars, etc. I also recommend you check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information on how to properly store jams, if you plan on storing them outside of refrigeration.

Because all of my jams are much lower sugar, I process them in a water bath for 10 minutes instead of the five that is normal with jams. I can't say how long they would last, since most of them are gone within 3 months.

I add 1/2 t. butter to each of my jams just so you don't see a "foam". If you don't add the butter, the frothy substance forms on the side of the saucepan that needs to be skimmed off. The butter seems to reduce/eliminate this.

Phew! I'm exhausted just proofreading that. Let's have a snack. Yea, that apricot pineapple cinnamon jam is really good! Now, on to the recipes!
Now, on to the jams!

First up, Apricot Pineapple Cinnamon. When I bought some apricots to make jam, my mom recommended adding pineapple to it. After some research, I discovered this was a fairly common recipe. However, I wanted to add a few things to it. I added cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to the jam, and the result was really tasty. You get just a hint of the spices, yet they are not enough to overpower the fruit.

The raspberry jam was the easiest. I only used 2 cups of sugar for the entire batch of jam. I did add lemon juice to brighten the flavor a bit, and jam tastes so bright and fresh. I am really happy with this jam, and can't wait to cook with it. You can strain the mashed raspberries through a sieve or a food mill to reduce/eliminate the seeds, but I like it with the seeds in.

The onion jam was another experiment. I love sweet onions - walla walla sweets, as well as vidalia's. However, I don't love not being able to find them around. So, I decided to caramelize a ton of onions, and make a jam with that. The ingredients are simple, but this recipe takes a while. It can be just as easily be done in a crock pot as on the stove, though. I first got this idea when I was at a restaurant, and ate their French Onion Soup. Immediately I thought, wow, this would be good on a burger. So, I have been working on that concept ever since. Haven't been completely successful, but I have explored a lot of ways to use onions.

Finally, the rhubarb strawberry jam. I made this mostly for my mom. I know she loves the flavors, but can't eat most jams because they have too much sugar. After reading up on a few things, I made this jam with absolutely no sugar - just with Splenda. It was great - a little sweet, a bit tart, and a great taste of strawberries and rhubarb. You don't even miss the sugar.

Apricot Pineapple Cinnamon Jam

Recipe from: Mom, modified to reduce sugar and add spices
Makes 5-6 pints
4 cups apricots, pitted, chopped, and peeled
20 oz. crushed pineapple, in its own juice
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
3 cups sugar
1/2 t. butter (if desired)
1 package low/no sugar pectin

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except for sugar and pectin. Mix 1/2 sugar and pectin together, and add to saucepan. Stir until very well combined. Heat to boiling, add remaining sugar, and heat to boiling again. Let boil 1 full minute. Take off heat, and fill sterilized jars, put lids on, and process in a water bath for at least 10 minutes. Cool jars on towels.

Low Sugar Raspberry Jam

Recipe From: Twisted Kitchen
Makes 5-6 pints
6 cups mashed raspberries
2 cups sugar
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. butter
1 package low/no sugar pectin

In a large saucepan, combine raspberries, butter, and lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar and pectin, stir into the raspberries. Cook berry mixture until it comes to a boil, add remaining sugar, and bring to a full rolling boil. Cook for 1 full minute. Ladle into sterilized jars, adding lids, and processing in water bath for 10 minutes. Cool jars on clean towels.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Recipe From: Mom, modified to add Splenda and eliminate sugar
Makes 5 pints
6 cups Rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
3 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups splenda
1 package low sugar/no sugar pectin
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. butter

In a large saucepan, add rhubarb and water, and cook over low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until rhubarb starts to lose its shape, and water is almost evaporated. Add lemon juice, butter, salt, and strawberries. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 c. splenda and the pectin. Add the pectin mixture to the saucepan, and heat the mixture to boiling. Add remaining splenda, and heat to boil. Boil for 1 full minute. Ladle into prepared jars, seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool on a towel.

Onion Jam

Recipe From: Twisted Kitchen
5 lbs. sweet onions, such as vidalia, maui, or walla walla
3 T. brown sugar
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 T. oil
1/2 T. butter
2 T. roast garlic (optional)

Chop onions into 1/2" squares. In a very very large sauce pan (or crock pot), heat oil and butter together over medium heat. Add onions, sugar, and salt. If onions don't fit, you can add in batches until all onions are in pan. Let cook until all moisture has been released from the onions, and they are a deep caramel color. Add pepper and roast garlic. Season to taste, they should be slightly sweet, but still taste heavily of onions. Add roast Garlic. Add to small freezer safe containers and freeze until using, up to 3-6 months.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

2 different cheesecakes - chocolate chip and chocolate chocolate chip

This makes the chocolate cheesecake look yummy, but shows you I over cooked the chocolate chip one...oops! I still want to share both recipes with you, though, so have pity on the poor overcooked chocolate chip one - it was still good!

I really like my mini cheesecake pans. I have 2 - one that says bite size, but really is 2 bites, and the other is a 5" pan. I think it's really a blessing to make that little cheesecake and not have to worry about getting rid of it all. Let's face it - an 8" cheesecake is a LOT of cheesecake.

After quite a bit of testing, I've discovered that if I par down my recipes to use only 8oz of cream cheese, that will fit into 2 small 5" pans perfectly. This is great for me, since I can test out flavors and I can make a variety of little cheesecakes.

Like these, actually. I made these for a friend, but made a few for me to keep as well. If you want to make an 8" cheesecake, just multiply the recipes by 3. If you want little cheesecakes and don't have specialty pans, you can make these in cupcake form, and each recipe should make 6-8 cupcakes.

I wanted to make Tim some cheesecake. Well, actually, I was making him a treat. And, he mentioned he wanted something that didn't have gluten in it so he could share with his trainer. When I told him what I had planned (cheesecake with a nut crust), he said his trainer wouldn't eat it anyway, so I just made a nice chocolate crust.

Since I had saved him a small hazelnut caramelized white chocolate cheesecake (from this post), I thought I would give him a variety of different cheesecakes to eat. So, I made him a double chocolate cheesecake, and a chocolate chip cheesecake.

These are great. The chocolate one was very intensely chocolate. I used chunks of chocolate for the chocolate chip one, and I think that worked better than normal chocolate chips. I liked the dark chocolate contrast to the smooth cream cheese.

The chocolate one is perfect for the chocolate lover. I added melted bittersweet chocolate to the cheesecake, and the result was a rich and creamy chocolate filling.

Chocolate chip cheesecake
Makes 2 5" cheesecakes


1/2 c. chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
2 T. butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chocolate chips, or 4 oz. dark chocolate cut into chunks
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350.

For the crust: Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter and mix well. Divide in 1/2 and press 1/2 in each 5" cheesecake pan, gently pressing up the sides. The best way to do this is with a small water glass.

For the cheesecake: Combine cream cheese and sugar, mix for about 1 minutes, until well combined and creamy. Add egg, salt, and vanilla and mix until very well combined. Divide batter in 1/2 and pour each 1/2 over the prepared crust.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30minutes until center just barely wiggles. Cool for at least 4 hours or refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature.

Chocolate chocolate chip cheesecake
Makes 2 5" cheesecakes (or 12 mini's)


1/2 c. chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
2 T. butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 T. flour
1/2 c. chocolate chips, or 4 oz. dark chocolate cut into chunks
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 350.

For the crust: Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter and mix well. Divide in 1/2 and press 1/2 in each 5" cheesecake pan, gently pressing up the sides. The best way to do this is with a small water glass.

For the cheesecake: Combine cream cheese and sugar, mix for about 1 minutes, until well combined and creamy. Add egg, salt, and vanilla and mix until very well combined. Stir in chocolate and flour. Divide batter in 1/2 and pour each 1/2 over the prepared crust.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30minutes until center just barely wiggles. Cool for at least 4 hours or refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature. If making in cupcake cups, bake 10-15 minutes.