Homemade Ricotta and Ricotta Toasts

A few weeks ago I made my first batch of ricotta cheese!  It was so much easier than I thought it would be.  The recipe is from Fine Cooking. Thanks to the use of whole milk and cream it is rich and luscious.  While I am sure it would take your lasagna to the next level, I wanted to use it in a way that allowed it to really be showcased, not masked behind tomato sauce and heavy meats.  These toasts were the perfect way to use it.

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Many ideas I came across for ricotta toasts were sweet with ingredients like honey, figs, strawberries and grapes.  I wanted something that would qualify as dinner, so I decided on roasted asparagus with lemon and thyme and tomato and basil.  This will definitely be something I’ll make again this summer, it’s light but still satisfying.  I can also see adapting this to serve as an appetizer or as part of a brunch.  I’m helping host a baby shower in a couple months, and I think these would be perfect.

To make the toasts I took slices of hearty bread

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Brushed them with olive oil (butter is also great)

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And grilled them (a panini press or grill with do, as will broiling them in the oven.)

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Top with a tablespoon or 2 of the ricotta.

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Layer on some roasted asparagus.

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Sprinkle with fresh thyme and lemon zest, and maybe a bit of salt.

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Slice and serve.

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I also made some with slices of fresh tomato, chopped fresh basil and some sea salt.  I will never tire of that combination.  And it’s perfect for summer when fresh basil and ripe tomatoes are in abundance.

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Do you have any great toppings for ricotta toasts?  I’d love to hear what you’ve tried!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

From Fine Cooking

Makes 4 cups of cheese (can easily be halved)

Ingredients

  • 1 galllon of whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Directions

  1. Fold cheesecloth to make 3 or 4 layers, wet and then squeeze the excess liquid out.  Line a colander with the cheesecloth and set in a clean sink.
  2. Put the milk and cream in a large pot.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and slowly warm the milk and cream over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s 185°F, about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and then slowly pour the lemon juice over the surface of the milk. Once all of the lemon juice has been added, stir gently for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage curds to form.
  4. Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander. Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to loosely cover. Drain until it reaches your desired consistency, 30 minutes for a soft ricotta and up to 24 hours for a very firm, dry, dense ricotta. 30 minutes to an hour created the consistency I liked for the toasts.  Be sure to refrigerate if draining the ricotta for more than a couple of hours. Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

 

Daring Bakers: Lamingtons

The last post on Hottie Biscotti was the April Daring Bakers challlenge.  A full month of no posts!  I know you’ve been wondering just what has happened to me.  Well, I have just been doing a poor job of keeping up with the blog.  Honestly I don’t know when I would’ve posted next if I didn’t have a commitment to keep up with The Daring Bakers.  Blogging has taken a back seat lately.  Being a mom is a lot of work and sometimes (or a lot of the time this past month) sitting down and watching TV during nap time is more valuable and enjoyable to me than taking photos or writing a blog post.  Anyone else have dry spells in blogging?

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Anyway, I was glad to have this fun challenge to get me back here. I’d never seen or heard of Lamingtons before.  I’d never even made a sponge cake!  So, thanks for the great challenge, for having me try something new, and for getting me to blog, Marcellina!

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant.

I ate one of these with my afternoon coffee today and loved every bite of it.  The delicate cake with the thin layer of chocolate and slightly crunchy coconut made for a really special treat.  It’s basically a Mounds bar in cake form, so if you like those you should have no problem liking Lamingtons.

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Making the sponge cake is fairly simple when it comes to ingredients and baking, but it is tedious.  Having a stand mixer is super helpful since you beat the eggs and sugar on high speed for 15 minutes.  I was thankful to be able to turn on the timer and tend to other things while my mixer did all the work!  When you fold in the flour mixture it’s important not to deflate the eggs, but you also want to get all the flour incorporated, so there’s a delicate balance.  I don’t think that I achieved a perfect sponge, there were a few little pockets of unmixed cornstarch and baking powder in one part of the cake, but overall the flavor was incredible and the texture was light and airy.  And I don’t know what truly proper sponge cake should be like, so maybe mine was nowhere near acceptable.  But it worked!  So I’m going to call it good.

Here is my set up for dipping and coating the cake.  Doesn’t it look neat and clean?

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The chocolate glaze is delicious, a breeze to mix up, and easy to work with, at least at first.  The only problem I ran in to glazing and coating the pieces in coconut was that the delicate cake lost little pieces in the chocolate which, after about a dozen pieces of cake, made for a yucky mess that was no longer easy to work with.  So I ended up not even bothering to coat all the pieces.  My kids gladly ate the extra cake for dessert and felt very fancy.  If I really needed to coat them all I’d make a second batch of glaze that I could switch to once the first batch became not so wonderful.

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Here is the mess I made.

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But here is what came out of all that mess.  Totally worth it.

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Lamingtons

Makes 24

Ingredients

Cake

  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup castor sugar (I used regular granulated with no issues)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2¾ cups unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble

Chocolate Glaze

  • 3 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • ½ to ¾ cup milk

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep 9”x 13” baking pan by lining with non-stick paper and greasing the paper.
  3. In a stand mixer bowl place eggs, sugar and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for 15 minutes.
  4. While the eggs and sugar are beating sift the cornflour and baking powder at least 3 times.
  5. After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at least tripled in size, be light in color and very foamy.
  6. Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture. I like to use a whisk but you can also use a large metal spoon to lightly fold the flour in. Some people like to use a wooden spoon but I find it too heavy. Heavy handling now will result in a flat tough sponge. If you are using butter, thoroughly fold it in now but lightly.
  7. Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Some cooks at this stage drop the pan onto the bench top to even out the air bubbles.  I did this, but just once and not from very high 🙂
  8. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak.  When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and should feel springy when pressed gently.
  9. Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will be easier to handle.

Chocolate Glaze

  1. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Stir in the butter and ½ cup milk.
  3. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water.
  4. Stir until icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. I find I need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of milk.

Assemble

  1. Dip each piece into the chocolate icing, let the excess drip off.  Keep the bowl over the pan of warm water to keep the chocolate smooth.
  2. Roll in coconut.
  3. Place on a wire rack and let sit for 2 hours.  Refrigerate or freeze.

Daring Bakers: Focaccia

Pretty much every Daring Bakers Challenge I have ever done has been done frantically, a day or two before the posting date.  This time was different.  Almost 2 weeks ago I made my first herbed focaccia loaf.  But I only took a picture of the finished product, and only with my iphone.  I told myself I’d make another one and take good photos.  I wound up making three more, but didn’t manage to take any good photos.  Of any of them.  Here is the problem, well problems really.  3 kids under 5, an inability to plan ahead, and the worst, bad light.  Each time I made bread it was to serve with dinner which meant I was finishing up the bread right about the time the light in my kitchen was blue and my kids were screaming for something.  Any of you who have ever been around kids between the hours of 5 and 8pm know exactly what I am talking about.

But there is a bright side!  This recipe is wonderful…easy, delicious and with lots of options to make it simple or to add special toppings.

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For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch.

The herbed focaccia recipe I made three times.  Once sprinkled with salt, olive oil and fresh rosemary, the second time topped with sliced tomatoes, olive oil, salt and rosemary.  And most recently I made individual ones with sundried tomatoes and parmesan.

My favorite was the second, the one with sliced tomatoes.  The sundried tomatoes I added at the beginning of baking and so they got a little too charred.  I think you could easily chop them up and add them to the dough for something really great.  But the fresh tomatoes won for me.  I think maybe because this was the closest one to being pizza!

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I tried the Focaccia di Recco, but couldn’t find the right cheese, so it wasn’t quite right.  The recipe calls for Stracchino cheese, but I used shredded mozzarella with just OK results.  If I ever see it on a menu or in a bakery somewhere I am going to have to try it.  It sounds incredible.  Melty cheese sandwihed between thin layers of dough.  Yum.

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If you’ve ever thought about making focaccia but bought a loaf at the market instead because you thought it was too hard, let me encourage you to try this recipe.  You may never go back to store bought!

Herbed Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups milk, warmed to about 110°F
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil and kosher salt for sprinkling on top
  • Toppings: fresh rosemary, freshly grated parmesan, sliced tomatoes, olives, sundried tomatoes, onions, etc.

Directions

  1. Whisk together warm milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl.  Let rest until foamy.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine flour and all the spices.  Mix in the cheese, vegetable oil and yeast mixture.
  3. Using a dough hook, mix dough on medium speed for 3-5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  4. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, between 1 and 2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 450F.  Turn dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper.  Shape into a rectangle or circle, or divide into 4 circles for individual breads.  Press all over with your finger tips, then drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and place toppings.  Let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Drizzle with a bit more oil, sprinkle with more salt if desired and top with some fresh grated Parmesan.  Cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

 

Cheesy Sausage and Green Chile Overnight Breakfast Casserole

Over Easter weekend my sister made a breakfast casserole that everyone loved, especially my husband.  So when we got back home I decided to make it again as a special weekend breakfast.  Instead of making a full batch I halved it and made individual casseroles.  You could easily make this batch in an 11×7 or maybe even a deep 8×8.  Or you can follow the original recipe and do it in a 9×13.  Whichever way you choose you will have a really satisfying and hearty breakfast on your table with very little effort.

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Of course you can leave out the green chiles, or use more or less than called for depending on how spicy you like things.  You can also adjust the cheese and sausage to taste.  I found this to be super cheesy, which I love.  This combination of mozzarella and sharp cheddar is great, but use what you have or what you like.  I used a turkey breakfast sausage, but again, use what you like.  I love dishes like this that are very forgiving and easily adapted.

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This makes 8-10 individual casseroles depending on the size of your ramekins.  Be sure to bake them on a rimmed baking sheet just in case they spill.  Mine did not, but better safe than sorry.

The measurements and instructions below might frustrate you if you thrive on precision in the kitchen.  Since this was my first time making this and I was working from measurements for a larger dish I had to adjust as I worked.  I started off with 4 eggs and 3/4 cup of sour cream and as I was filling up the dishes I realized I was not going to have enough, so I whisked in another egg and a bit more sour cream.  I included that adjustment in the recipe.  But since we likely do not have the same ramekins, your definition of “a sprinkle” is different than mine, and I may tend to be heavy-handed when is comes to sausage you may find that you have too much or maybe that you didn’t have quite enough of something.  I wrote the ingredient list with the motto, “Better too much than not enough” but please let me know if you found any ingredient to be way off.

Cheesy Sausage Breakfast Casserole

 

Cheesy Sausage and Green Chile Overnight Breakfast Casserole

From Allrecipes

Makes 8-10 individual casseroles

Ingredients

  • 8 to 10 ounces breakfast sausage, cooked
  • 3 or 4 plain english muffins
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 5 eggs
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped green chiles

Directions

  1. Spray ramekins with cooking spray and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a dish towel (this will keep them from sliding around).
  2. Butter the inside of each halved english muffin and then cut each half into about 12 chunks.  Add enough chunks to just about cover the bottom of the ramekin, for me this was about 6.  Squish them in there so they make a nice layer, but err on the side of too few since they will expand once they soak up the egg mixture.  Repeat with all of the ramekins.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, sour cream and green chiles and set aside.
  4. Divide the sausage between the dishes, sprinkle generously with a little of both cheeses (leave a little extra), then pour some egg mixture on top.  Pour just enough of the egg mixture to reach the top of the dish.  Sprinkle with a little more cheese.  Repeat with all the dishes.  Cover the entire pan with a sheet of foil and move (carefully) to the fridge to sit for 8-12 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Remove the dish towel from the baking sheet, line with foil and arrange ramekins back on the pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cheese begins to brown and there’s just a slight jiggle to the egg.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Caramel Filled Pecan Brownies

While I was with my family recently, one of my sisters mentioned that she was perusing the blog and came across a recipe with some horrendous photographs.  There are lots of these posts.  I haven’t taken them down, and I don’t plan to.  Even though running across them is like finding old college pics that someone else posted on facebook from a night you kind of want to forget, I’m keeping them up.  One of the main reasons is that many of them are good recipes!  But we all know that the world of food blogging requires more than just a good recipe.  You’d better have some pictures that make people want to make the recipe.  I don’t know about you, but these pictures make me want caramel filled brownies.

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Caramel Filled Brownies-7I decided that I would make a little project out of going back through some of my old posts that have really great recipes and re-doing them, without taking the old ones down.  It’s fun to see how far I’ve come in taking pictures of food, writing about the food, and I even think I’ve become a better baker and cook in the past 8 years or so that I’ve had this blog.  Here is the old post for these brownies.  It was just about 6 and a half years ago.  These pictures were taken in our little apartment in China Spring while I was teaching school and Ben was in law school.  Things are pretty different for us now!

Caramel Filled Brownies

This recipe is from The Pastry Queen.  It’s a great cookbook.  Everything is delicious.  If you’ve read my blog before you’ve likely heard me (if you can “hear” something in writing) sing its praises.  I only changed one thing from the original recipe, and that was to use a bag of those caramel bits instead of unwrapping a bunch of caramels.  It worked out just fine.

I highly advise cutting these cold from the fridge and even eating them cold is a great idea.  However, warming one briefly in the microwave and topping it with a little vanilla ice cream isn’t a bad way to enjoy these brownies.

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Caramel Filled Pecan Brownies

From The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package (11 ounces) caramel bits
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Toast pecans for about 8 minutes, until they are fragrant but before they begin to get too dark.  Break apart any large pieces and set them aside.
  3. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving some overhang. Grease foil generously with shortening.  Set aside.
  4. Combine butter and chocolate in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth.  Do not let it burn.  Transfer chocolate to a large bowl and let cool for a few minutes.  Add in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and mix (with a whisk, hand mixer or a stand mixer) until thick and glossy. (
  5. Whisk or stir in flour and salt. Transfer half of batter (about 2 cups) to baking pan and spread evenly, sprinkle half of the pecans over the batter and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes.
  6. Once the brownies cool, melt caramels and cream in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and stir over low heat until completely melted and smooth.  Immediately spread caramel mixture over baked brownies.  Pour remaining brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture and spread gently to cover, being careful not to mix up the brownie and caramel layers.
  7. Sprinkle chocolate chips and remaining pecans on top and bake for 20 minutes. Cool, then transfer to the fridge for at least a few hours.
  8. Lift brownies out of the pan by lifting the foil.  Remove the foil carefully, bring sure to get all of it off, especially around the edges and the corners where the caramel will stick. Cut brownies into squares.  Serve at room temp or cold.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Cardamom Easter Bread

Right now as I write this post I am snacking on some of this bread warm from the toaster with my afternoon coffee.  It’s such a treat and I want you to experience the same pleasure.  So do yourself a favor and go make this bread for the weekend!

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Sometimes I hit a wall when I’m writing a blog post.  I am having that experience now with this post.  Big time.  My mind is just a big foggy mess and when I sit down at the computer my hands freeze.  For some reason I feel like I should have something to say other than, “I made this.  It was delicious.  Here is the recipe.”  But that’s all I have!

So.

I made this.

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It was delicious.

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Here is the recipe.

Hope you all have a very Happy Easter celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Cardamom Easter Bread

Makes 2 loaves, 1 loaf and 4 buns, or 8 buns

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 envelopes (4 1/2 teaspoons) dry active yeast
  • 8-9 cups all purpose flour
  • eggs, one for each bun you plan to make (colored with egg coloring and RAW) and one for the egg wash
  • sprinkles

Directions

  1. Heat milk over medium-low heat until bubbles form on the edges of the pan and the milk is steaming.  Turn off the heat. Stir in melted butter, sugar, salt, ground cardamom and nutmeg.  Let mixture cool until lukewarm, 100-110°F. Stir in the yeast and let sit for about 10 minutes until foamy. Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 2 cups of flour and mix on low with the dough hook until flour is mixed in.  Add 2 more cups, mix, and repeat until you’ve added 8 cups total.  Turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 3-4 minutes.  If the dough does not pull away from the sides of the bowl add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it does.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a bit, then place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
  4. Punch dough down and place on a floured surface.  Divide in half.  For Bread: Divide a half into thirds and roll each third into a rope about 14 inches long.  Pinch ends together and then braid the ropes together, pinch the ends together and tuck the ends under.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover and let rise for an hour.  For Buns: Divide the half into 4 pieces, then each piece in half.  Take those pieces and roll them into ropes about 10 inches long.  Pinch the ends together and twist the pieces together, then pinch the ends and connect the ends by pinching them together.  Repeat with the rest and place all 4 buns on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover and let rise for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Beat an egg and brush onto buns or loaves.  Sprinkle with colored sprinkles if desired.  Place egg in the center of each bun.  Bake for 20-25 minutes for buns and 25-30 minutes for bread.

 

Daring Bakers: Tarte Tatin

This is one of those classic desserts that I can’t believe I haven’t made before!  Thanks again, Daring Bakers, for getting me to try something new and delicious.  And so beautiful!

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 For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.

Since I of course didn’t make this until 2 days before the posting date and I am off to visit family for the weekend I am going to keep this post pretty short.  The recipe worked wonderfully well and I had no issues whatsoever.  I would do it all the same the next time around.

Except for the apples.  Mine were HUGE and I used the recommend 6 called for and had a bunch left over.  You want more apples than the pan can hold since they do cook down, but I had probably 2 apples worth of slices left.  That being said, I’d rather have too much than not enough.

The recipe for the pastry is easy and bakes up so flaky I know I’ll be making it again.  I can’t believe I almost cheated and used a frozen puff pastry!

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The caramel is a time consuming but fun project!  Forgive these photos, but I thought it would be helpful to see the process.  If I didn’t know the stages the sugar would go through I would’ve thought something was going terribly wrong.  So, no need to worry when the sugar gets all nasty and clumpy and looks like nothing good can come from it.  Something very good is coming.  Just keep stirring and be patient.

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The apples get wonderfully soft in the rich caramel.  A scoop of plain vanilla bean ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to this rich dessert.

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After arranging the apples and letting them cool a bit, place the crust on top and bake.  I wasn’t supposed to let the tarte cool all the way before unmolding, so I was worried that it wouldn’t come out cleanly.  I warmed the pan on the stove very breifly and it came out perfectly.

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This is a beautiful dessert, perfect for impressing your guests!  Or perfect to make for yourself and your baked good-loving toddler when your husband has gone out of town…

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Tarte Tatin

Pastry

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup ( 5 ounces) unsalted butter, cold
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • ¼ cup ice cold water

Directions

  1. Pulse flour, butter and salt in a food processor until butter is in pea sized pieces.
  2. Stream in the water until the dough just comes together.
  3. Turn out on a floured surface and press together into a square.
  4. Roll into a 10 inch rectangle.  Fold the top third of the dough down and the bottom third up so that you have 3 layers.  Rotate 1/4 turn and repeat this process 4 more times.
  5. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour, but up to a day.

Filling

Ingredients

  • 4 large or 5-6 medium-sized apples (I used Granny Smith)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Peel the apples and cut them into 4-6 pieces depending on the size of the apples. Remove the cores in such a way that each apple quarter has a flat inner side: when placed rounded-side-up, it should sit on a flat base. Place the apples in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. This will help draw out some of the moisture from the apples and prevent an overly runny caramel. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Melt the butter in a very heavy, 9” or 10″ oven-proof saucepan over medium heat, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup sugar. Stir with a whisk until the sugar melts and becomes a pale, smooth caramel. The sugar will seem dry and chunky at first, then will start to melt and smooth out. If the butter appears to separate out from the caramel, just keep whisking until it is a cohesive sauce.  This can be a long process, but it eventually works! Remove from the heat.
  3. Preheat oven to 375F.  Discard the liquid that has come out of the apples, then add the apple quarters to the caramel, round side down. They won’t all fit in a single layer at first, but as they cook they will shrink a bit. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, pressing down gently on the apples with a spoon to cover them in the caramel liquid. Move the apples around the pan gently so that they all cook evenly, trying to keep them round side down. When the apples have shrunk enough to mostly fit in a single layer and are starting to soften but still keep their shape, remove the pan from the heat.
  4. With a wooden spoon, arrange the apples, round side down, in a single layer of concentric circles covering the bottom of the pan. Set aside until the filling stops steaming before covering with pastry.
  5. Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, and trim it into a circle about 1″ in diameter larger than your saucepan. Lay it over the filling, tucking in the edges between the apples and the sides of the pan, and cut a few steam vents in the pastry. Place the saucepan on a rimmed baking sheet (just in case the filling decides to bubble over the sides) and place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, then increase the heat to 400°F for 5 minutes.  Keep and eye on it so it doesn’t get too dark.
  6. Remove from the oven and let sit just until the caramel stops bubbling. Immediately place a serving platter (slightly larger in diameter than the saucepan) over the pastry. Wearing oven mitts, grab hold of the saucepan and platter and quickly invert everything to unmold the Tatin onto the platter. If any of the apples stick to the pan or come out of place, rearrange them with a spatula.
  7. The tarte can be served warm from the oven or at room temperature. Suggested accompaniments include vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche.

 

Brussels Sprout Salad with Pine Nuts and Cherries

I’ve made this salad twice now.  It’s so delicious.  These pictures don’t do it justice, but trust me.  Yum!  It’s a great change of pace from the typical spring mix salad that graces out table most nights.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Pine Nuts and Cherries | Hottie Biscotti

Many side items can be made in advance, but this one requires you to make it ahead of time!  This is great for me.  I do a lot of dinner prep (or at least I try to) during nap time, and having part of the meal totally completed early in the day puts a little spring in my step.  It’s the little things, you guys!

The first time I made this I used pistachios and cherries, and this last time I used pine nuts and cherries.  Both variations were great, just depends on what you have and what you like.  You could easily leave out the nuts, use something else, and even replace the cherries with cranberries.  I wouldn’t use anything other than the parmesan, though.  The flavor is perfect with the brussels and it has a great texture that other cheeses lack.  Any hard cheese will do.  Make sure to grate it on the large holes of your grater.

The recipe is from a Test Kitchen Best of 2015 magazine I picked up at the grocery store.  The original recipe feeds 8, so I cut it in half.  While I could sit and eat the entire bowl of this by myself, it will feed 4 as a side dish.  The first time around my husband and I ate it as a side 2 nights in a row.  This last time I made it I ate it for lunch a couple days.  You need to let the salad marinate for a few hours so that the brussels soften a bit.  It is best the day it’s made, but this will last for a couple days in the fridge.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Pine Nuts and Cherries | Hottie Biscotti

 

Take the time to thinly slice the brussels.  Put some good music on or put something good on tv (may I suggest the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?!) and get to work with your paring knife.  Sometimes tedious work like this is therapeutic for me.  Other than that, there isn’t too much work to be done.  I made the dressing in a mini food processor, eliminating the need to finely chop the shallot and garlic.

This is a great spring salad with lots of ways to make it your own.  Enjoy!

Brussels Sprout Salad with Pine Nuts and Cherries | Hottie Biscotti

Brussels Sprout Salad with Pine Nuts and Cherries

From America’s Test Kitchen Best of 2015

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan

Directions

  1. In a mini food processor combine garlic and shallot and finely chop.  Add in the lemon juice, mustard and olive oil and pulse a few times.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl toss the Brussels with the dressing, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Before serving toss in the pine nuts, cherries and Parmesan.

Pie for Pi Day: Blueberry Cream Cheese Streusel Mini Pies

I’m jumping on the Pi day bandwagon!  And why not?  Any excuse to make pie.  And I also happen to love dates that have some numerical-mathematical significance.  3-14-15 and 3.1415!  It’s amazing!  And tasty.

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And oh my goodness.  These sweet little pies are magical.  The best way I can describe them is to compare them to those Duncan Hines boxed mix blueberry muffins with the can of blueberries and the streusel topping.  Making those is one of earliest memories I have of baking something on my own.  If you haven’t ever had them before you are missing something special.

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These came into being so perfectly.  I had a frozen pie crust (this recipe from Smitten Kitchen), a can of blueberry pie filling (don’t judge), a half package of cream cheese and some leftover frozen streusel from kolaches (this recipe).  All of that came together to make something so incredible that I will be making these again without changing a thing.

Aside from making the pie crust there isn’t much work to do.

Prepare the crusts.

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Spread with cream cheese.

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Fill.

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Top.

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Bake.

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You could make this in a regular pie plate, but these mini pie pans are a generous individual size and I really liked the way the pies baked in them.  After the pies cooled they were very easily removed from the pans.  They seem pricey, but are worth it.  They’d be great for pot pies, too.

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Go enjoy Pi day and have a great weekend!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Streusel Mini Pies

Ingredients

  • 1 unbaked pie crust for a 9-inch pie
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 can blueberry pie filling

For Streusel

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, chilled

Directions

  1. Make streusel: Use a pastry blender to combine sugar, flour and butter.  Chill.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Divide the pie crust into 4 pieces, roll each piece out into a circle that fits into the pan.  Trim the edges.  Freeze for 20 minutes.
  4. Beat cream cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar together until well combined.  Spread cream cheese mixture into the bottom of each pie.
  5. Top with blueberry filling.
  6. Top with streusel.
  7. Place pies on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the crusts and tops are golden brown.  If they brown too quickly top with a sheet of foil.
  8. Let cool and then serve warm or room temp with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

Crunchy Coconut and Oat Bars

Sometimes you just need to bake something.  Maybe the weather is dreary, you’ve had a bad day, or, if you’re anything like me, you just need a project that has a beginning and an end and tangible (and edible!) results because no other task you’ve attempted that day has been successfully completed.  You want something quick with very little prep and a short bake time so that you don’t have to wait long to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  These oatmeal bars meet every one of those qualifications AND they’re delicious.  They remind me a lot of the oat and honey Nature Valley bars.  Drizzle on some melted chocolate chips to make them a bit fancier, but they are really good just on their own.

Crunchy Coconut and Oat Bars | Hottie Biscotti

This recipe is from a cookbook I have baked from a lot, but it’s been a while, Rebecca Rather’s Pastry Queen.  It is one of my favorite dessert cookbooks.  Most of you probably scrounge around on the internet for recipes, like I do.  But then you browse an old cookbook and find a real gem and you tell yourself you’ll do it more often.  But you somehow find yourself going back to the computer or pinterest the next time.  I urge you to go to your cookbooks!  I have so many of them, some I have never even cooked from.  And that’s a shame.  I vow to do more cooking from physical cookbooks.  You should join me.  Back to the bars.

Crunchy Coconut and Oat Bars | Hottie Biscotti

If you bake at all, then you have everything you need for these bars.  They come together in a snap and bake up in a mere 20 minutes.  After cooling they are very crunchy, so slicing them is really more like sawing or chopping.  If you’re not so concerned with appearance you can just break them apart into pieces.  Those pieces might be amazing along with a bowl of vanilla ice cream…and some hot fudge…

Crunchy Coconut and Oat Bars | Hottie Biscotti

Crunchy Coconut and Oat Bars | Hottie Biscotti

Crunchy Coconut and Oat Bars

From The Pastry Queen

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 pan.
  2. Melt butter, brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  3. In a large bowl stir together oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and coconut.  Pour melted butter over and stir to combine thoroughly.
  4. Press firmly into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cool for 20 minutes before cutting into bars.
  6. Melt chocolate and drizzle over bars or dip them.