Bake Sale the Sequel: Brownies, Mice and Monkees

Posted: October 28, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

Let me start by saying that the apartment I moved into this summer is wonderful except for two minor issues.  1)  Families can not live in my apartment because there is lead paint.  Apparently, instead of removing it the people in charge think it will be cheaper to pay for my chelation therapy.  2) I can see my basement through the floorboards of the living room.  Now, this isn’t a major issue except it shows exactly the level of energy efficiency i’m working with.  I am not exactly sealed off from the environment and therefore have had to deal with some critters in the house.  My first experience with this was about three days after I moved in.  I woke up around three in the morning hearing terrible scratching noises from the wall behind my bed.  Now, obviously, my first thought at that point was Holy Crap something is coming to steal my soul, but luckily I had been working like a feind all summer so I swiftly rolled back over and went to sleep.  When I awoke at 8am with a much clearer head I realised that rather than dealing with issues similar to the family in Paranormal Activity, I was dealing with issues common to most home owners: squirrels in the wall.  It then became really funny when my dog started following the squirrel running up and down my bedroom looking at me totally confused.  After a couple of days the moving stopped and I figured the situation had dealt with itself, until the fateful day that I made delicious treats for the GSA Bakesale…

I have already discussed the fact that i was invaded by teenagers for a while, so I didnt get to start baking until about 9:30-10pm ish that night.  The plan was to make brownies with frosting and rainbow sprinkles and individual monkey bread.  I had already prepped the monkey bread to make my life easier.  All it takes is a couple canisters of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits cut into quarters, a mixture of cinnamon sugar, 2 sticks of butter and 1/2 cup of light brown sugar.  Its the same process as regular monkey bread, just in extra large muffin cups.  Roll the biscuit pieces in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place them in the muffin cups about 5-6 pieces in each.  In a saucepan melt butter and stir in brown sugar.  Heat while stirring until the mixture is smooth then pour evenly over each cup.  Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.  These bad boys sold out in about 15 minutes.  I feel like I cant take much credit for that though, because high school students would eat their own shoes if you coated them in sugar and told them it was the cool thing to do. 

While the monkeys were baking I threw together some brownies.  The brownies I make are pretty basic, one saucepan and done.  I have already posted about my Easy From Scratch Brownies so I won’t go into it again, but this time I also threw in an easy chocolate ganache on top which just increases the gooey deliciousness.  All you need is 1 cup heavy cream and 8 oz chocolate.  I use a combination of 6 oz semisweet and 2 oz dark chocolate to give it a little more intense flavor, but you can use whatever chocolate you prefer.  Break the chocolate into small pieces in a large bowl.  Then bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate.  Let it sit for about 2 minutes and then whisk until the mixture is smooth.  TaDa!  Ganache!  I usually wait until my brownies are still a little warm to the touch and then pour the ganache over them to coat the top. 

Since I was performing this feat of deliciosity at such a late hour, I figured I would just let my brownies sit out over night to cool and finish everything up in the morning.  This was a terrible plan.  When I came down the next morning to let the dog out and finish my baking escapades, I noticed something strange about my now cool brownies.  Foot prints.  And teeth marks.  Now I was tired the night before but I distinctly remember that there were no footprints on the brownies when I went to bed.  Apparently I have mice.  The major issue is that I know I need to get rid of said mice, but I can’t bring myself to kill them and I know the no-kill traps are fairly useless unless i follow the old cartoon adage of trapping a varmint and driving an impossible 1200 miles to the middle of Australia to drop it off, and with my schedule, I’m lucky if I find 20 minutes to go “grocery shopping” at the gas station down the street because its closer than the grocery store.  Forget about a nice little intercontinental road trip.   

Moral of the story: One: Never assume the furry woodland creature situation in your house has ‘taken care of itself’ and Two: Always cover your baked goods.  No that is not a euphamism.

Luckily I have learned my lesson and now I’m not a fool, I wrap my…brownies.  That was a euphamism. 


Driving Miss Zilla #1: Honey-Gingerbread Cookies

Posted: October 18, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 4 Comments »

So, here’s some personal information for the world: I have had some real, serious anxiety about driving. Yes, I’m a grown woman, yes I have a driver’s license, yes I took driver’s ed and practiced and all that stuff, but driving has always made me nervous (the roots of this are something I won’t go into here, but I have gotten treatment for anxiety, no worries). So I’ve avoided driving like the plague for years, which is pretty easy when you live in New York City. But recently, I’ve realized, it is really good to know how to drive. It is a very practical skill. Especially when you have both a zip car and costco membership at hand. So I decided to take this issue head on. I enlisted my dear friend and fellow pretty girl Johanna, and arranged a driving lesson/practice session in exchange for baked goods. I must say, she was an extremely patient and kind driving companion, and really helped me feel a lot better about my ability to drive like the rest of American adults, and, well, she got some honey-gingerbread cookies.

I made these halloween themed because it’s October.  And I had ghost and cat cookie cutters.  I like gingerbread a lot, and the honey works really well… it’s a great flavor addition.  I have to work on my royal icing technique – they were a little sloppy – but the taste results were great.  Note: the dough needs refrigeration and then the cut out shapes need freezing – so A. make sure you give yourself a while to make these and B. make some room in your fridge and freezer for them.

  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup honey (don’t use fancy honey for these – it’s expensive and the flavor you’re paying for won’t be taste-able – save that for tea.)
  • 1/2 cup molasses

  • Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.
  • Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in honey and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Divide dough into 3 portions, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a generously floured piece of parchment, roll dough to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Slide dough and parchment onto a baking sheet, and freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Cut out desired shapes. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Bake cookies for 6 minutes. Remove sheets from oven, and tap them firmly on counter to flatten cookies. Return to oven, rotating sheets, and bake until crisp but not darkened, 6 to 8 minutes more. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
  • Ice them with royal icing.  I have written about this previously… but the kind I use has raw egg whites.  I mix one box confectioner’s sugar, 1 tbs. lemon juice, 1 egg white, and 1/8-1/4 cup water to make it… and I like using gel as opposed to liquid food coloring if available.   Ice cooled cookies as desired.

    Praline Cookies

    Posted: October 3, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 2 Comments »

    This week, my dear boyfriend’s grandfather passed away. While I never met Grandpa, his family has always been very nice and generous to me, so I wanted to do something for them while they are grieving.  (I will note that this was not a tragedy, so no one gets too upset – Grandpa lived a long, healthy life and died surrounded by loving family, it’s more to mark an occasion of loss and celebrate a life well lived).  Anyway, when he flew down to the funeral, I sent with him some cookies to share with his family.  Because that’s the only way I know how to send my thoughts and well wishes.

    Pralines are awesome.  Pecans and caramel, where can you go wrong?  Seriously.  If I were to make these again, I would add bourbon to the caramel.  Bourbon and caramel are a great combo, and I think that would have added some nice flavor to the cookies, but they were great as they were.  (Note: as with most baked goods, if you do add booze, only add a small amount, maybe 2 tbs, and all the actual alcohol cooks out, so they’re safe for pregnant ladies, non-drinkers, etc.).

    The Cookie Base:

    A basic, brown-sugar cookie:

    • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    Preheat to 350.  Put parchment on cookie sheets.  If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: always use parchment.  Even if the recipe doesn’t say to or suggests greasing your sheets or pan.  Ignore it and use parchment.  Seriously.  I will say it every blog if it gets someone to use it: this stuff is life changing.

    Sift or whisk together the dry ingredients, set aside.  In a large bowl or mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Add in the egg and vanilla.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to combine.  Drop rounded teaspoons for small cookies, tablespoons for larger cookies, and bake until golden, 10-15 minutes, depending on size.  Allow to cool.

    Don’t turn off your oven just yet though!  Put about 1 cup of pecan halves in a baking pan and roast them for a few minutes.  I have burned too many nuts, so I may under-roast, I usually put them in for 3 or 4 minutes.  Take them out and then you can turn off the oven.  When the cook, break them into small pieces (I just used my hands, because I wanted chunks).  Then, in a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup cream, 1 cup brown sugar, possibly more vanilla or bourbon, and bring to a boil.  Cook over medium for 2 minutes, stirring.  Remove from heat, and whisk in 1 cup confectioner’s sugar.  Whisk it good, until it starts to look frosting-y.  Add in the pecans.  Top the cookies with the praline mixture.  I think the best thing to do is the let the mixture dry for a while and then trasfer to your serving dish, because caramel frosting is super sticky while wet.

    Again, I’m so sorry Grandpa is gone, and know that he will be missed by his great family, who have always been so kind to me.

    Bake Sale!!

    Posted: September 30, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | 2 Comments »

    Do you ever feel like you never stop working? For some reason, moving to a new school has made me something of a joiner.  I have already volunteered for a couple committees and I am one of the faculty sponsors of the GSA on campus.  While all this joining means less time in my personal life, it also means a lot of fun opportunity like helping to set up a bake sale in an effort to raise funds for equipment to make the school’s campus a safer place for the GLBTQ community.  Luckily the students did most of the work, I just baked a couple things and allowed some of the boarding students to come bake in my apartment.  The kids had it in their head that they wanted to do a rainbow cake, which actually turned out pretty awesome.  I wish had been able to get pictures, but it didn’t work out.

    I fully expected to watch the my entire kitchen become a war zone of cake batter, food coloring, and who knows what else, but I was very impressed by their ‘clean as you go method’ because no matter how long I have been cooking, I will never be able to master what two 17 year olds accomplished.  My kitchen was actually cleaner when they were done with it…how the hell does that happen? *Mom if you are reading this please refrain from any comments about how messy it must have been to begin with, because I had just cleaned it that morning. 

    After they had made the cake batter they just separated it into different bowls and then died each section with food dye.  Then just layer each color on top of the previous one and bake like normal.  When it first came out of the oven it was sort of a purplish brown color, but when you cut into it you could see all the individual colors.  I have done this with cupcakes before but never a whole cake so it was fun to see. 

    For the bake sale, I made fudge because I have a friend who has to be gluten free and I figured bake sales have to be like hell for her.  Fudge is gluten free and completely delicious, so how could that be a bad idea?  Answer: it is not the idea that was bad, it was the execution. Sad face.

    I apparently did not cook the fudge enough because after twelve hours in the fridge it had not set so much as gelatinized (also, I’m pretty sure I just made that word up).  When a recipe calls for soft ball stage, make sure you get an accurate temperature reading because while the fudge still tasted delicious (yeah, I ate it, so what, you wanna fight about it?)  it could not hold its shape for more than about 45 second and oddly enough no one wants to buy ‘fudge soup’…even for fifty cents.  Luckily I still had some other stuff to contribute to the bake sale, but you’ll have to wait to read about that in my next post entitled Bake Sale the Sequel: Brownies, Mice and Monkeys. 

    I know, you are on the edge of your seat already….

    Chicken Tikka Masala Balls

    Posted: | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 1 Comment »

    One of my favorite things about this foodblogging thing is the sense of community we form. It’s like a huge, interconnected recipe swap, or one of those Junior League cookbooks with the spiral binding and the recipes for Jello Salad and the like. Only here, the recipes are all pretty much outstanding. And very little Jell-o is involved. Usually.

    An excellent blog that I’ve recently come to know is Big Girls, Small Kitchen. These girls have a great wealth of knowledge, and are down to earth about what the realities of cooking in New York really are. Twitter also fosters those relationships, and makes you aware of things that you might miss otherwise.

    About a month ago, Cara from BGSK tweeted that she had posted a recipe to Food 52 for Chicken Meatball Tikka Masala. Intrigued, I copied down the ingredient list, and made the recipe. The first time, I only made one substitution, using parsley instead of cilantro, because I don’t eat cilantro (soap =/= delicious). It was amazing.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph that cookthrough. But I knew this was something I wanted to blog about. So, darn, I had to cook it again. (sarcasm alert)

    This time I had to make a few substitutions/changes. But either way, this is delicious, and the flavors only get better as they age, which means that the leftovers are even better the next day for lunch. I love that. I also love making meatballs, which means that this dish makes me super happy. One of the substitutions that I had to make, based on my grocery store’s limitations, was using ground turkey instead of ground chicken for the meatballs. I also totally forgot that I’d used up all my ginger, didn’t buy more, and had to do without. AND, as mentioned before, cilantro tastes like soap, which means I’m allergic to it, so I didn’t use it. BUT it was delicious, so we will press on.

    Turkey Meatballs Tikka Masala
    Adapted, gratefully, from Cara at Big Girls, Small Kitchen

    Turkey Tikka Masala Meatballs

    Begin by combining a pound of ground turkey, 2 minced shallots, a bunch of chopped parsley, 3/4 cup of homemade breadcrumbs (put 2 slices of bread in the food processor and pulse into crumbs), an egg, a tablespoon of tomato paste, and (since I didn’t have ginger) a teaspoon each of ground cumin, and either your favorite garam masala, or Moroccan 5-spice powder (thanks, Jackie!). Roll the mixture into golfball-sized meatballs, and saute in olive oil until they are browned on all sides.

    Turkey Tikka Masala Meatballs
    For the sauce, combine 1/2 a cup of canned tomatoes (mine had green chiles as well, a nice touch) and a tablespoon and a half of tomato paste in your food processor or blender, and whirl until they’re smooth.
    Meanwhile. Get out a sturdy pan. If you have a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet, or even an enameled dutch oven, that’s what you want to use. You DO NOT want to use a non-stick pan for this. They don’t get hot enough. Trust me.

    Before you do anything WITH your heavy pan other than put it on the burner, assemble and prep your other ingredients. Measure out the following:
    1 teaspoon mustard seeds. Put those in a tiny dish or on a saucer.
    1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted, 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds toasted, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1-2 teaspoons (to taste) garam masala or whatever spice blend you prefer. These go in another tiny dish, that you can easily dump out.
    4 minced shallots (or 2 minced shallots and a minced small onion), and 4 grated cloves of garlic. Put these on a small plate.
    Now. Turn on your kitchen fan, we’re going for high heat for a minute.
    Put your heavy pan over high heat, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is SCREAMING HOT, add the mustard seeds, cover, and immediately drop the heat to medium. When the seeds stop popping (this will be about 15 seconds) add the shallots and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring and moving around frequently, until the shallots are getting nicely golden. Then, add the cumin, coriander, cayenne, etc and cook a minute or so more, to toast the spices.
    Add the tomatoes, and reduce the heat a little. Simmer until the sauce has reduced to a paste-like consistency.
    Turkey Tikka Masala Meatballs

    Add in a quarter-cup of coconut milk, a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, and a quarter cup of water. Bring the sauce to a boil, and simmer covered for 10 minutes, to let all the flavors meld. At this point, add the meatballs back into the sauce, and let everything get happy. Serve the meatballs and sauce over rice, or with naan, or other flatbread. The leftovers are great for lunch the next day, or, if you’re like me…. breakfast. :)

    Coconut Cupcakes

    Posted: September 26, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    It seems that coconut is a controversial ingredient. I know several people who aren’t crazy for it, including at least 2 of our pretty girls and even my own mother. So perhaps this is a controversial statement. But here goes: I love coconut. Almond Joys are my favorite cheap candy, coconut frozen fruit bars are my favorite… I love it. Especially when it’s served sweet (ie macaroons), though I’m also partial to more savory (coconut milk curry…).

    In that spirit, here are some coconut cupcakes I made, with all this leftover shredded sweetened coconut I had bought when it was on sale. The cake is like a plain old cake with a coconutty twist… which to me, was awesome.

  • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 8 large egg whites (I used the kind that comes in a carton, because it felt like a big waste to toss 8 yolks).
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners, or grease them well to go paper-less; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.
  • In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture; stir in shredded coconut.
  • Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 cup batter. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool.
  • I then frosted mine with regular chocolate ganache, though the recipe called for a meringue frosting.  I also put some sweetened, shredded coconut on top for decoration.  If you’re a coconut fan like me, these are sure to please!

    It seems I accidentally deleted the pictures I took of these cupcakes.  Sorry!

    The most amazing gift ever

    Posted: | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, Uncategorized | No Comments »

    I recently moved from Ohio to Massachussettes, which was a very large and complicated move, but for a very good reason (a kick ass job).  Unfortunately after I had opened all my boxes and unpacked everything, I realised that I had somehow forgotten all of my knives and the majority of my kitchen utensils back in Ohio…shit.  I have no idea how I missed two whole drawers, but apparently thats what happened.  After losing my mind a little (a lot), I tried to go through and figure out exactly what I was missing.  My amazing Forschner knives that were a Christmas gift, the ice cream scoop that belonged to my grand parents and is better than any ice cream scoop that they make today, the beater attachments to my electric hand mixer, and the list goes on and on.  I am still trying to figure out everything that is missing and slowly starting to replace things as I can, but it was a pretty devastating blow to lose all my stuff (and to realise how much of a flaming idiot I am).  Luckily for me, a couple great things happened.  My awesome sister happened to get new utensils and was willing to give me her old ones, so now I at least have a couple spatulas, a slotted spoon, and a ladle.  Crap i just remembered my sweet ladle with the graded measurements marked right on it.  Anyway, moving on.  the second great thing that happened was that had sale on Forschners, selling a 15 piece block for 65% off.  Now, even with the discount these knives are absurdly expensive, but being the foodie that I am I decided to make it my birthday gift to myself and get it.  After using extremely cheap knives for two weeks, and I mean EXTREMELY cheap, as in everything is serrated and you almost cut your hand off slicing cheese it was totally worth the price to have great knives again.  So I am slowly trying to rebuild my kitchenware collection and if anyone has any ideas or suggestions on things that I should buy, I would greatly appreciate it.

    On a more personal note, I also had to leave my amazing boyfriend in Ohio, so we are only going to be able to see each other sporadically in the upcoming months.  I mention this because he recently came to visit and brought me perhaps the most perfect gift anyone could have every gotten me for my birthday.  First, he got me two bottles of wine and a gift card to a book store (for those of you that don’t know, I’m a huge nerd).  However, when I opened the second box, I saw an eight inch chef’s knife engraved with:  It is beautiful, and it was so thoughtful I was speechless.  So needless to say, boyfriend did a fantastic job and I am simultaneously touched and impressed.  Check out the greatest gift of all time…

    AANNDDD I’m back!!

    Posted: September 23, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    First, let me say how sorry I am for my longer than brief hiatus.  There is no excuse, but in my defence, I was without a kitchen all summer and then moved into a new apartment where the internet situation was less than stellar.  But the good news is, I am Back!!!  So I’m just going to dive right in and fill in some blanks as I go.  Lets do this…

    Once I left my fun, but kitchenless, summer job I was excited to get back to cooking, so I looked up some fun recipes.  It also helps that I got the “Whats for dinner” app for my phone so I was playing with that.  I found a recipe for grilled onion tarts and got wicked excited so I made that along with balsamic porkchops and a caprese salad. 

    The tarts were a little different than you would expect based on the title, but still pretty delicious.  It calls for 4″ puff pastry shells, but I have not been able to find them at any store (if you know where I can get them, let me know) so I went with the only shells I could find which were pretty little.  Bake the shells according to the directions on the box.  I have every intention of eventually trying to make these on my own, but I am still slightly (read: extremely) intimidated by puff pastry, so we’ll see when that happens.  The rest of the ingredients are as follows:

    Two cups, thinly sliced parboiled new potatoes, provolone cheese sliced, 1/2 cup cooked diced bacon, 8ish whole green onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. 

    Make sure the potatoes are almost fully cooked, because they will not have tons of time in the oven to cook.  Coat the onions lightly in oil, salt and pepper and grill or sautee for about a minute on each side.  Layer the potatoes in each of the pastry shells then top with cheese, place two green onions over the cheese and sprinkle with bacon pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in a 350 oven until cheese melts, about 8-10 minutes. 

    This was pretty good, although i was working with an over that was literally from the 1950′s so it was pretty tempermental and my potatoes were not cooked all the way through.  I would also like to try it with different cheeses because as much as I love provolone, its a little too mellow for me.  I prefer a more bold cheese flavor.  This is definitely a recipe I will keep working on, especially as I get into playing with puff pastry. 

    I also made balsamic pork chops which were good, but the real take away from that endeavour was that balsamic vinegar and chicken stock, when reduced, make a freaking delicious sauce that I would put on anything. Sauce, marinade, dressing, i would eat it with a spoon if I weren’t concerned about institutionalization (pretty sure thats not a word, but its fun to say).

    Gooey Apple Pie

    Posted: September 15, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 1 Comment »

    I love holidays. They’re a perfect excuse for baking things to give to people. Which is the best part of baking. So, here’s a recipe for a very gooey apple pie I made for Rosh Hashanah. It’s a little different from what I usually make because it has a gooey glaze (sort of gelatin-ey) on top, and a thin, cookie like crust. If I were to do it again, I’d use less of the glaze, and more cheese and apples. Also, explore a flakier type crust. But it was good, and sweet, and used the traditional Rosh Hashanah apples and honey. And, of course, change is good.

    The crust:
    - 1/2 stick butter
    - 1 cup flour
    - 1/4 cup ground almonds
    - 3 to 4 tbs water

    Preheat the oven to 375. Cut together the butter and flour (with a pastry cutter or food processor). Stir in the almonds. Add in the water and mix until it forms a dough. Roll the dough out on a floured surface (it will be rather thin) and gently put it in a standard 9-inch pie pan. Make a nice edge. Pierce it with a fork. Put a piece of foil on top, and then sprinkle 2 cups or so of dried beans onto it. Bake 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans. Bake for another 15. Allow it to cool and shut off the oven.

    The Apple part of the filling:
    - 1 1/2 cups port or dessert wine
    - cinnamon stick
    - 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
    - 3 large peeled thinly sliced apples (a tart variety, I used Granny Smiths)
    - 1/3 cup honey
    - a pinch of salt

    Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Toss the cinnamon stick. Strain, reserving both the liquid and the apples. Stir the honey into the liquid.

    The Cheese Filling
    - 6 oz cream cheese
    - 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    - 1/4 almond extract
    - 2 tbs honey
    - 1/2 cup plain yogurt

    Combine all ingredients, beating until smooth. Spread it into the crust.

    Put the apples over the cheese filling.

    Make the glaze:
    Take 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquids, put it into a small saucepan, whisk in 2 tbs cornstarch, and whisk as you bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat, and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour it over the apples.

    Let the pie cool, then chill it in the fridge.

    Sunday Supper, and Savory Monkey Bread

    Posted: September 14, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna, Sunday Suppers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

    Since my life has gotten hectic, and my Saturdays are currently swallowed by the dual demons of Getting Up Early and Logging Lots of Miles, followed by the spare visit from Post-Run Disco Nap, Sundays are where I look when I look forward to the weekend.

    Part of the wonder of Sunday is that generally, especially as Summer fades through Indian Summer into Fall, there’s nothing to do except watch football and cook. Two of my favorite things to do. So this past Sunday, I decided to implement a process, whereby I make a big meal for Sunday Supper. It serves as a fuel-up for the week, and as a reminder that the weekend ain’t over yet. It gives leftovers for lunch on Monday, and the reminder that Saturday and Sunday aren’t that far away.

    This inaugural week, Sunday Supper also gave me the chance to fire up my oven, which was repaired on Saturday, after not working since June 17. (No… I did not break it by kicking it when the Celtics choked away banner number 18 to the Lakers that night. As far as you know.)

    The menu was straightforward, delicious food. On Sunday morning, I browned a brisket in my roasting pan on the stove, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then dropped it into my slow-cooker with 2 small chopped onions, 4 chopped stalks of celery, 4 chopped carrots, a can of low-sodium beef broth (yes, I know, canned. But sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to do) and a can of no-salt-added chopped tomatoes. I set the slow cooker on low, and sat back to wait until the delicious smells got overwhelming.
    Roughly 8 hours later, I shredded and chopped the meat, and pureed the rest of the items in the slow cooker into a gravy of sorts, and put everything back in the slow-cooker, this time on WARM, instead of LOW.

    To go with the excellent brisket (I love Crock-Potting cheap, tough cuts of meat into delicious oblivion. It warms my soul), I made mashed cauliflower. Our CSA had given us a head of it, and while I’m not the HUGEST fan of cauliflower and broccoli, I figured that I shouldn’t let this veggie go to waste. So, I simmered it in milk, and once it was tender, mashed it with butter, salt, pepper, and some of the reserved milk. In all, it turned out delicious, and I was able to trick myself into believing that it was mashed potatoes. Well played, Cauli. Well played indeed.

    The real star of the show, confirmed by the response the photo got on Facebook, was the Savory Monkey Bread I made based on Serious Eats‘ recipe.

    Savory Monkey Bread

    adapted (lightly) from Serious Eats

    1. Scald 1 cup of milk. Scalding refers to heating milk up to 180 degrees, no more, no less. Let the milk cool to lukewarm. I judged lukewarm to be about finger temperature, when I stuck my finger in the pot of milk and it felt neither hot nor cold. I don’t know anybody named Luke, so I had to wing it.

    2. Combine the milk, 1 packet of rapid-rise yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 2 cups of flour in a mixer. With the dough hook or paddle, beat until everything is well-combined. Cover with aluminum foil and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

    3. Add another half-cup of flour,  half a stick of room temperature butter and a teaspoon of salt to the bowl, and knead with the dough hook (or by hand) until the butter is incorporated, and the dough is springy and a little bit sticky. I didn’t want to over-beat mine, and the original recipe doesn’t give a time guideline, but it’s nearly impossible to OVER knead your dough. I checked by touching it. When I could poke it, and it felt sticky, but it didn’t stick to my hand, I decided it was ready.
    Form into a ball, cover, and let rise again for about 40 minutes.

    4. While the dough is rising the second time, make the butter dip. I think next time, I will melt my butter, because it seems easier to manipulate than soft smushy butter with soft smushy dough.
    Combine 1 garlic clove (or more, to taste) with a teaspoon of Italian Seasoning, a half-teaspoon each of dried rosemary and dried thyme, half a teaspoon (ish) of smoked hot paprika, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a whole bunch of grated asiago cheese (I probably used a quarter of a cup) in a food processor.
    When the garlic is finely chopped up and the dried herbs start looking like little bits, drop in the other half-stick of butter and combine. This is a compound butter. Leave it on the counter at room temp.
    I think that next time, I’ll melt the butter. Then, add the chopped up garlic and herbs TO the melted butter with the spices, and reserve the cheese for sprinkling.

    5. Preheat your oven to 325. Grease your pan. I used a 7″ springform bundt pan, but you can use anything you’ve got.
    Take the doubled dough out of the bowl, and cut it in half. Cut each half into 16 pieces (more if you feel like it), for a total of 32 (or more). I used my bench scraper, but you can also tear, use kitchen shears, or a knife.
    Roll each blob into a ball, and smear with the compound butter (or dip the balls in the melted herb butter) and sprinkle with shredded parmesan, asiago, romano, or all three.
    Put the blobs into the greased pan, stacking them on top of each other and trying to fit them into the little crevices so that they’re somewhat evenly layered. (Deb’s post on traditional Monkey Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze has great photos, as always, of the process)
    If you’re like me, this is the moment to give the whole shebang another coating of grated cheese. Be like me. It’s fun.
    Cover the pan, and let it rise for 30-40 minutes, until the little blobs of dough are filling up the pan.

    6. Grate on a little more cheese right before you stick the pan in the oven. I won’t tell anybody.

    7. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the dough is golden brown, and smells like you’re going to faint. Remove from the pan if you can (a springform was REALLY helpful for this) and let cool a little bit, until you aren’t burning your fingers trying to eat it.

    This was a great way to kick off what I hope will become a Sunday tradition. Stay tuned to find out what happens next Sunday!

    Johanna: The Improviser

    Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

    Alyssa: The Triple Threat

    Can do it all. And modest to boot.

    Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

    She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

    Rita: The Kosher Chick

    Restrictions have nothing on her.