Curried Squash & Apple Soup

October 29, 2010

With all of these gorgeous squashes in season, I knew that I had to take advantage of making them into a soup. Nothing beats a bowl of warm & hearty soup with homemade rolls on chilly weekends. I looked around for a recipe that fits the bill, and I couldn’t quiet find one that seemed  to have everything that I wanted. I prefer soups that are more savory than sweet, so I decided to use regular vegetable broth instead of apple cider like some recipes suggested. If you want a sweeter soup though, feel free to substitute them in place of broth. I also like pretty heavy seasoning on mine and just a tad bit of creaminess from the heavy cream. I also liked to have a little bit of chunks of apples in the soup, so if you want your soup to be completely creamy without any chunks, feel free to put them into the blender after sauteeing them. Playing around with the amounts of different seasonings, I arrived at this one listed below. I enjoyed mine with homemade olive rolls (I will post the recipe next week!) and they were heavenly together. Try this and let me know if you agree. Happy eating!

Ingredients
3 lbs of squash (I used one butternut, and one deliccata), halved
1 medium McIntosh apple, diced
1 medium apple, peeled and diced
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 tbsp of chopped garlic
2 tbsp of heavy cream
1 tsp of curry powder
1/2 tsp of ginger
1/4 tsp of paprika
1/8 tsp of red pepper
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Scoop out and discard seeds from squash. Place cut side down in a 13×9 inch baking dish, add water. Bake uncovered for approximately 45 minutes, until squashes are tender.

Carefully scoop out squash into a blender or food processor, cover and process until smooth. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, saute the onion, apple, and garlic. Stir in curry powder and ginger, continue to cook for another minute. Stir in broth and pureed squash. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add cream, salt, pepper, red pepper, and paprika, heat through.

Yield: 6 generous servings


Brussel Sprouts Lardons

October 22, 2010

I was pretty excited when I found a small bag of Brussels sprouts in my CSA box a couple of weeks ago because I got to experiment with new type of vegetables that I have never had or cooked before. They were freshly harvested, each one was flawless. I looked around for some recipes that sounded yummy and decided to try this one from Ina, her recipes rarely fails me. Her recipe calls for 1 1/2 lb of sprouts, but I only had 1/2 lb, so I cut back the rest of the ingredients accordingly and substituted craisins instead of raisins since that’s all I had in the house.  The only mistake that I did was that I think I cooked it too long (as you can see in the picture), around 8-9 minutes total. I should have cut it back to probably 5-6 to leave the vegetables a little bit of crunch. But the flavor was fantastic. It quickly went up to my top five side dishes favorite, and I wish that I had more. I ate this by spoonfuls and finished them before I even ate up my main course… yes, it was that good. If you are looking for a delicious way to cook these fall harvest, this recipe is a must try. Happy eating!

Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

Ingredients

2 tablespoons good olive oil
6 ounces Italian pancetta or bacon, 1/4-inch dice
1 -1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts (2 containers), trimmed and cut in 1/2
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup golden raisins (I used craisins in mine)
1- 3/4 cups Homemade Chicken Stock, recipe follows, or canned broth

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan and add the pancetta. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is golden brown and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Add the Brussels sprouts, salt, and pepper to the fat in the pan and saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the raisins and chicken stock. Lower the heat and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. If the skillet becomes too dry, add a little chicken stock or water. Return the pancetta to the pan, heat through, season to taste, and serve.


Chewy and Chunky Blondies

October 14, 2010

I made these blondies as a birthday treat for Red, who’s a self-proclaimed “cookie lover”. I even made this Chocolate Chip Cookie Tart instead of a regular birthday cake. And yes, while it was as good as I made it the last time, which I think was last year, I wanted to bake something extra for him. I can’t recall if I have made blondies from scratch before, but when he selected this recipe, I was excited. I had a pretty high expectation especially with all of the raves on other food blogs on this recipe.

First, look at all of the adds in: chocolate, butterscotch, walnut and coconut flakes. Those alone bring a promise of treats choke full of goodness, and they really did. I’m a closet admirer for butterscotch chips, it’s sweet, yet a little bit salty, and it has a familiar flavor of childhood sweets, and I loved how they are showcased as proudly as the chocolate chips. I also used dark chocolate chips, which is my pick anytime over any other types of chocolate, and they were just spectacular together. Add walnuts and some coconuts, I had myself a winning treat. This is a must-again dessert for me, and a big yes for Red of course.  Happy eating!

Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients
2 cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into chips or 1 cup store bought chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips or Heath Toffee Bits
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9” x 13” baking pan and put it on a baking sheet.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add both sugars and beat for another 3 minutes, or until well incorporated. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chips, nuts, and coconut. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and use the spatula to even the top as best as you can.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the blondies comes out clean. The blondies should pull away from the sides of the pan a little and the top should be a nice honey brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for about 15 minutes before turning the blondies out onto another rack. Invert onto a rack and cool the blondies to room temperature right side up.

Cut into 32 bars, roughly 2-1/4” x 1-1/2”

Yield: 32 bars


Croissants

October 10, 2010

I have been dreading making croissants forever. These little flaky breakfast treats have been on my mind for a while, but I have finally decided to add them to my Bucket List. I have been looking around for a good recipe to try and finally decided to rely on my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook which has yet to fail me.

Just like these homemade bagels, the making of these croissants were really a test of endurance and patience. The dough requires several resting time, with each time lasts a minimum of an hour to as long as an overnight. For some of these projects, I had my souz-chef Red by my side, folding and rolling the dough with me. I started mine on  Friday night then, I let it rise for a little bit over an hour during the three folds, and then let it sit overnight for the final resting time.  

I also decided to make the entire recipe, but only baked half, which gave me approximately 12-14 croissants. I froze the other half of the dough for a later time. From the one batch that I made, I filled half of them with chocolate chip morsels and the other ones were left unfilled. I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed the chocolate filled croissants, but they did not melt as well as I would have liked. Next time, maybe I’d use Nutella instead to ensure that the filling melts all the way through. This was definitely a make-again project. 

Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook 

Ingredients
1/3 cup warm water, (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
1 package dry-active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon table salt
1 1/3 cups warm milk, (110 degrees to 115 degrees)
1 pound (about 3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/2 sticks (14 ounces) chilled unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions
Make the dough: In a liquid measuring cup, combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir to combine. Let stand 5 minutes to allow yeast to proof. In a second measuring cup, dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, and the salt in the milk.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour. Add the yeast mixture, milk mixture, and oil. Blend everything together by cutting and pressing with a rubber spatula, being sure all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be very wet.

Turn dough out onto a well floured work surface. Let stand for 3 minutes to allow the dough to absorb some of the liquid. Start kneading by lifting near edges, with a bench scraper, and flipping it over onto the other side. Rapidly repeat the movement from one side to the other, and end over end, until the dough feels smooth and begins to draw back into shape when pushed out, 8 to 10 times. Do not over-knead.

Transfer dough to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using lightly floured hands, pat and push the dough out into a rectangle about 12-by-10-inches. Fold the dough in three, like a business letter. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet or plate; cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. This second rise can be done in the refrigerator, overnight.

Punch down dough. Cover the dough again with plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator for 20 minutes; this will allow the gluten to relax, and make rolling out the dough easier.

Roll in the butter: Place butter on a lightly floured work surface and beat with a rolling pin to soften. Then smear it out with the heel of your hand until it is of spreading consistency, but still cold; it must not become soft and oily, refrigerate if necessary.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, roll it out to a 18-by-10-inch rectangle. Spread butter as evenly as possible over the upper two-thirds of the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Fold the bottom (unbuttered) third of the dough up to the middle. Fold the top third down to cover it.

Lightly flour the top of the dough, and work surface. Turn the dough so the edge of the top flap is to your right. Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 18-by-8-inches. Roll rapidly, starting an inch from the near end, and going to within an inch of the far end. Fold again in three, as above. Wrap in plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Sprinkle lightly with flour, and deflate the dough by tapping lightly with rolling pin. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 8 minutes to relax gluten, if necessary. Repeat rolling and folding process twice more, as above. If the butter has hardened and congealed into flakes, beat the dough with light firm taps going from one side to the other until butter has softened. It must be able to extend the length and width of the rectangle inside the dough as you roll it out until it has softened. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. If refrigerating overnight, cover with a board and a 5- pound weight.

Resting overnight will facilitate shaping.

Shape the croissants: When shaping the croissant, keep the dough that you are not working with refrigerated. Place chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface. Deflate dough. Roll the dough out to a 25-by-12-inch rectangle. (If at any time the dough becomes too elastic to work with, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let rest 10 minutes, to relax gluten.) Cut in half lengthwise. Working with one piece of dough at a time, using a pastry wheel or a croissant cutter, cut into triangles with a 5-inch base.

Roll the triangles out to enlarge slightly. Roll towards the tip, creating tension by using your other hand to stretch the top of the triangle away from you. The dough should overlap 3 times with the tip sticking out from underneath.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet leaving 2 inches between croissants. Curve the ends of the croissant inward, forming a crescent shape. Repeat with second piece of dough. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until very spongy and doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and heavy cream, and lightly brush over tops of croissants. Open the oven door, spritz the oven heavily with water from a spray bottle, and quickly close the door. Place croissants in oven, and spray bottom of oven with water once more. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes. After 10 minutes, rotate pan to ensure even baking. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. and continue to bake until cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 2 dozens


Banana Pecan Muffins

October 6, 2010

Some of my readers probably have noticed that I love baked goods with bananas. And I could not help myself but wanting to try this variation from Tyler Florence when I saw him making it. His recipe calls for half of the bananas used to be whipped into a cream-like consistency which I have not seen before, and it also has pretty simple ingredients that I readily have available in my pantry. My verdict? Wow! I loved this so much that I had been making this at least once a month since I discovered it earlier this year. These muffins are moist, full of banana flavors and I enjoyed the pecans variation as well instead of the regular walnut. What I love the most about this recipe is that not only that it’s delicious, it is fail-proof, easy (I can even memorize all of the ingredients and directions), and is still pretty forgiving in terms of flavors when I decided to substitute the all-purpose flour for white wheat flour and half of the butter with apple sauce. What else can you ask?

Still got some bananas leftover? Here are some other recipes I have tried and enjoyed using bananas:
Banana Bread, Easy
Banana Bread, Flour Bakery Famous
Banana Bread, Kona Inn
Banana Crunch Muffins

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used white wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I substituted apple sauce for 1/2 of the butter)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly butter 2 muffin tins (of six muffins).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together like you mean it, for a good 3 minutes. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill them about halfway. Give them a rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.

Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 12 muffins