Friday, February 25, 2011

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

This is this week's Food Porn Friday attempt. I was lucky that any of the batter actually made it to the pan...it was pretty darned tasty. I may or may not have cleaned that beater right off without even offering any to my kids. I'm such a bad mom!

The recipe this week came from Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. This book is also a big girl's cookbook; not many pictures but the recipes are written in a very detailed, user friendly format that even I can't mess up. An added bonus is the cool science of baking and food information that is packed into every page. The tunnel cake recipe was used to illustrate the ways sugar effects food. The fudgey "tunnel" is created because the high sugar content doesn't allow the center to set with the given bake time and temperature. Also, the brown sugar intensifies the fudge flavor and roasted nuts are always a win in my opinion.

I did have a sticking issue, getting the thing out of the pan was a bit more challenging than I imagined it would be so don't skimp on the non stick spray. The sticking drama however is totally worth it after you taste the finished product. Holy yum! Super, super rich chocolaty flavor with almost a brownie texture "outside". We ate it at room temperature and you can see in the second picture that the "fudge" is still slightly wiggly. It's not Chili's Molten Lava Cake runny but I think I like this better actually. I loved the nuts and I'm not always sold on nuts in cake or brownies. Served with vanilla ice cream it would be pretty close to the perfect chocolate dessert. You might want to schedule a check up with your dentist for shortly after you indulge however! :)


Tunnel of Fudge Cake
Bakewise by Shirley Corriher

2 1/2 c. walnut pieces or mixed walnuts/pecans (I used all pecans because we don't like walnuts)
1 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 2 Tbs pieces, divided
3/4 tsp salt, divided
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large egg yolks
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2 1/4 cup spooned and leveled all purpose flour
Confectioners' sugar to garnish

1. Arrange a shelf in the lower third of the oven, place a baking stone on it, and preheat the oven to 350.
2. On a large baking sheet, roast the nuts for 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl, add 2 Tbs butter and 1/4 tsp salt and toss well. When cool, coarsely chop and set aside. (I just used pre chopped pecans and saved time)
3. Spray a 12 cup Bundt pan generously with nonstick cooking spray
4. With a mixer, beat the remaining 1 1/4 cup butter to soften and get to the fluffy stage. Add the granulated sugar, then the brown sugar, and continue to beat until light and airy. (This takes longer than you would think using cold butter) While beating, feel the bowl; if it does not feel cool, place in the freezer for 5 minutes, and then continue beating.
5. Beat in the remaining 1/2 tsp salt and the vanilla. Blend in the oil and egg yolks.
6. By hand, stir in the confectioners' sugar, then the cocoa powder.
7. By hand, one at a time, stir the eggs into the batter, with minimum stirring just to blend them into the batter well.
8. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and roasted chopped nuts. Fold the flour-nut muxture into the batter and pour into the prepared pan. (Heating the pan in the oven for 5 minutes before you put the batter in helps ensure that you have a good 3/4 inch of well set cake to hold the fudge center.)
9. Bake for 45 minutes. You can't use the toothpick test for doneness because this cake has so much sugar that the center is not going to set, but remains a "Tunnel of Fudge" in the center. You are totally dependent on the correct oven temp of 350 and the 45 minute cooking time. (If your oven is sketchy with temps you should invest in an oven safe thermometer so you have a good feel for what is actually happening inside your oven...and a light that works is also good!
10. When you remove the cake from the oven, you can't see it but it will have a runny fudge core with an air pocket above the fudge. This air pocket is not desireable and will become a hole under the fudge when the cake is chilled. To minimize this pocket, about 20 min after you take the cake out of the oven, while still in the pan, press the inside and outside edges of the cake bottom down all the way around. This will press the whole bottom down and reduce the air pocket. Leave the cake in the pan until completely cooled. (2-3 hours) With a thin knife, loosen the cake around the edges. Place a platter on top of the pan and invert.
11. Cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar or drizzle with some tasty drizzle. Vanilla, chocolate or rum (the recipe is in the book) would all be good.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

I feel like I've been a total blogging fail this week but I guess it hasn't really been any different than most weeks so I will avoid feeling guilty about the whole thing. :) I had Monday off for President's Day and it gave me some time to catch up on what's going on out there in cyber space with my favorite blogs. This little recipe comes from www.picky-palate.com and I was just totally intrigued with the whole concept of 2 ingredient cookies. It seemed pretty mad scientisty and I had to try it.

As far as the cookies themselves go they were eh. I've had better cookies and I've had worse. The recipe only makes about 18 cookies so the fact that I didn't have to stand there all day baking cookies was a plus but probably not enough incentive to make them again. That said, it was an entertaining hour/experiment. 

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
from Picky-Palate.com

24 snack size peanut butter cups. (the kind you buy in packages of 8 for $1.00)
1 egg

Pulse the peanut butter cups and egg together in your food processor until a dough forms. It's pretty sticky so you may have to use your hands to form the balls. 

Put cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down with the bottom of a cup. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt if desired. I did and it was the part I really liked. You could also do sugar. 

Bake for 10ish minutes at 350. Cool on cooling racks, cookies are really crumbly right out of the oven so let them sit on the pan for a few minutes before you try to take them off. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Asian Chicken with Pasta

Sundays are sometimes the only day of the week that we all manage to meet up and eat together as a family. I grew up on roast and potatoes every week and sometimes that is still what we have but it's more frequent that I fix something that is quick and easy like this pasta.

This is a really mild tasting pasta that we all like. I can see it ramped up with spice as well with some water chestnuts and mushrooms but this is the base dish. The fact that it uses premade broccoli slaw minimizes the prep time significantly. Most people will find that they have all the ingredients in their pantry already or if you happen to be like me and find yourself without bottled balsamic dressing you can easily whip up your own and use that. That recipe is below as well and is a super easy dressing that is good on greens or as a marinade. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks if you don't use it all the first day.

Asian Chicken with Pasta
Servings 6

Ingredients:
1/2 lb uncooked angel hair pasta
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast but into 1 inch cubes
1/3 c. prepared balsmaic vinaigrette
1/2 c. teriyaki sauce
1 red pepper, julienned
1/2 c. sliced onion
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
soy sauce to taste

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute chicken in vinaigrette until no longer pink. Remove from pan and keep warm.
2. In the same skillet, saute the slaw mix, peppers and onions until tender. Add the seasonings. Stir in the chicken and teriyaki sauce. Heat through.
3. Drain pasta. Add to chicken mixture and toss to coat.

1 1/2 c. serving=Cal 320; Fat 8 g.; 4 g. fiber; 25 g. protein

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 T garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 c. olive oil

Mix altogether in either a dressing shaker or blender. Serve over greens etc.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Russian Cake Bread

So, I have these friends...we met on a Weight Watchers message board several years ago and have become invisi-sistahs. We obviously all love food and have spent many an hour talking about completely non-Weight Watchers friendly food. Food porn we call it. Last week they had this great idea to pattern a group baking day after Tuesdays with Dorie so we all pulled out our matching cookbooks and decided to give it a whirl. The weekly event was dubbed "Food Porn Friday" and I am fairly certain that nothing healthy is ever going to come out of that particular day. We are dedicating it to baking and I've got to tell you I'm a little bit intimidated. Baking is my absolutely worst kitchen skill so it could make for some hilarious stories!

Today's recipe was Russian Cake Bread taken from Greg Patent's "Baking in America". I have to admit I've read the book almost cover to cover this week like it was a novel and there are some seriously mouth watering things in there. This is like a big girl's cookbook because there is a serious lack of pretty pictures but I'm persevering. I guess if I don't have a picture to compare the finished product to I can't be too horribly discouraged!

The texture is extremely cakelike, duh, cake bread, and it's very sweet. Bri loved it and is ready to make it again already. :)


Russian Cake Bread
recipe from Baking in America

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more if needed
1 1/4 oz pkg (2 1/4 tsp) fast rise active dry yeast
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp salt
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 1/4 c. milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Stir together 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the milk and heat the mixture until very warm (110-115 degrees). Reserve 1 Tbs of the beaten eggs for glaze. Add the remaining eggs, the warm milk mixture, and the vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until they are well moistened, then beat until the batter is smooth. Gradually addd the remaining 2 cups flour, beating until smooth after each addition.l The batter will be very thick and elastic. Add a bit more flour if necessary to bring the dough to the right consistency. Scrape the bowl, and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place (85-90 degrees) until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3. Stir the dough down with a wooden spoon, cover it, and let it rise again in a warm place until doubled, 45 min to 1 hour.
4. Butter 2 8.5x4.5x2.75 inch loaf pans. Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled and very light.
5. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350.
6. Gently brush the loaves with the reserved egg; try not to let any egg run down between the dough and the sides of the pans, or the dough may stick and rise unevenly. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops of the loaves are a deep golden brown and spring back when gently pressed. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a knife around each loaf to release it, and carefully remove from the pans. Set upright on wire racks to cool completely. To serve, cut the bread with a sharp serrated knife. Well wrapped the loaves freeze well for up to 1 month.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chicken Empanadas

I like the whole concept of food that is dippable and easy to hold. I love the little fruit empanadas that you can get at different locations but hadn't ever tried to make little meat pies so when some extra time presented itself this weekend I decided to give it a shot. After cruising the internet for inspiration I decided that I could figure out a better filling than anything I had seen and hit my "laboratory".

All in all I was very pleased and will definitely do this again. I loved the filling, it was moist and flavorful which was what I was worried about. I'm not a fan of the big glob of boring chicken inside things. :)

Because I had biscuit dough that needed to be used and time was short I used that rather than making pie crust but next time pie crust for sure. Even refrigerated would work if you aren't confident about your crust making skill.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and taco sauce. Yum!

Chicken Empanadas
Ingredients:
3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
2 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese
4 oz lt cream cheese, softened
¼ c. chopped sweet pepper (I used yellow but you could also do red)
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
½ med onion diced small
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 ½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup taco sauce
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Either refrigerated biscuits or pie crust dough
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook chicken and chop. I cut it into a small dice and boiled it in Maggi Chicken and Tomato Bouillon as the chicken was frozen and I was in a hurry. Typically I put it in the oven and bake it.
Sauté onions and peppers in a bit of olive oil until tender.
Put chicken and all other ingredients except dough in a large bowl. Mix well.
On a floured surface roll out pie crust and cut into approximately 3 inch circles. I used biscuit dough because I had some in the fridge; it was good but pie crust would be better. Put a small amount of filling on the circles; Lightly brush the edges of crust with water. Fold dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with remaining filling and dough. (At this point the empanadas can be frozen for up to 1 month)
Arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What I've been up to this week...

I have a couple of recipes that I need to post but I wanted to show what I've been doing this week, even though it isn't necessarily cooking.

For Christmas I got a new embroidery/sewing machine and I've been thoroughly enjoying figuring it out. I can see myself becoming obsessed with my new toy. I've embroidered on all my "empty" aprons, random dishtowels and I've been contemplating the pillowcases that are currently hanging out in the linen closet, you know, just for practice.

I made several of these potholders this week in the appropriate Valentine's Day spirit. I am still figuring out the perfect positioning tricks but by the time I had done 8 I was significantly closer than when I started. :)

What do you think?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Oatmeal Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars

Oh Food Network, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... :D Ok, seriously though, I love FN and all the good tips and ideas I get from watching. I have a few favorites like Guy Fieri and Alton Brown but certainly don't keep all my indiscriminate FN viewing confined to their shows. One of my new favorites is Ann Burrell. She is kind of perky and tends to go a little crazy on the salt but as long as you are aware of that going in she's pretty consistent in the recipes she churns out and let's face it, we all want to know how to make our food taste like a restaurant and she gives really great insights.

This recipe is taken from the FN website and I was really pleased with how it turned out. It is super sweet so odds are you aren't going to be inhaling the whole pan by yourself so make these bars when you need to share. Also, absolutely plan ahead and make them the day before you actually need them. I can't believe how much better they are after they have chilled thoroughly. They aren't even the same bar! So, so, good!

I made the recipe exactly as written, I think it turned out awesome and won't make any drastic changes. I will try it with the Craisin suggestion however to cut the sweetness and lull myself into thinking that they are slightly more healthy however. Jeff balked at that change so I may have to do that on a day that he won't be home but it's certainly worth a try just to say I tried it.

Oatmeal Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars

Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell


Prep Time: 15 min  
Inactive Prep Time:1 hr 30 min  
Cook Time: 55 min
Servings 36 (2 inch bars)

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pea-sized pieces, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (11-ounce) bag butterscotch chips
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Drape a 9 by 13-inch pan with overlapping pieces of aluminum foil, creating handles for easy removal. Butter the paper, and reserve.

In a food processor add the flour, oats and brown sugar and pulse to combine. Add the 2 sticks of butter, the cinnamon and the butterscotch chips. Pulse, pulse, pulse until the mixture forms clumps when pressed between your fingers. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer, reserve the other half. Bake in the preheated oven just until slightly golden and set, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Beat together the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon zest and juice and vanilla in an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle, or with an electric hand mixer until no lumps of cream cheese remain. Spread evenly over the baked and cooled oatmeal mixture. Sprinkle the remaining half of the oatmeal mixture over the cream cheese. Bake until the top is golden, about 40 minutes.

Cool and chill before cutting. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and using the foil handles, transfer the bars to a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares with a sharp knife and serve.

Cook's Note: For a delicious and healthy variation of this recipe, try replacing the butterscotch chips with tasty dried cranberries.