Saturday, June 30, 2007

Basic Focaccia Bread

This bread was really easy to make and it is a basic recipe that you can really do anything to. I added my own topping of garlic and parmesean cheese. It had a nice texture, soft and a little chewy. I didn't think it was very salty, so you may want to add more, depending on what kind of topping you like on your focaccia. The parmesean added more salt to my bread and it was delicious dipped in marinara sauce. I thought the recipe was a little odd because at first you make a stiff dough that you add more water to until it softens and all the flour is dissolved. In the end, I probably added an additional 1/3 c water. This recipe really calls for eyeballing it.

Basic Foccacia Bread

1 tsp white sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
1/3 c warm water (110F)
2 c all purpose flour
2 Tbls olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

In a small bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 min.
In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with flour and salt; stir well to combine. Stir in additional water 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the flour is absorbed.. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, for about 1 min.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 475F

Deflate the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Let it rest for 10 min for easier shaping.

Pat or roll the dough onto a lightly oiled baking sheet to desired shape and thickness. Poke the dough with fingers to make indentations in the bread. Brush the dough with olive oil and add desired toppings.

Bake in oven for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on desired crispness.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

With summer here it is most definitely ice cream season. Especially since we have already had some 100 degree days. Yikes! This recipe is so good, but be patient when making a custard based ice cream. Eventually it will be ready. The trick is tempering the eggs so that they do not curdle. A few weeks ago I was impatient and not paying attention and, oops, I had srambled eggs. This recipe tastes like strawberry cheesecake, but it's ice cream. I had this brilliant idea of putting the soft ice cream in a graham cracker crust to make an ice cream cheesecake pie. I didn't do it, but doesn't it sound so good?

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

from joyof

2 c half and half

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature

3 lrg egg yolks

2/3 c sugar

2/3 c strawberry puree (recipe below)

1 c fresh strawberries, chopped

Scald half and half over medium high heat in a saucepan. This means to heat the half and half until it is just bubbling a little on the edges. DO NOT let it boil.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, egg yolks, and sugar until light and fluffy. It should be about the color of butter and takes about 2-4 min if done briskly by hand.

Gradually pour 1/4 c at a time, the scalded mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk constantly so that the eggs do not curdle. Once the two mixtures have been mixed together, pour back into the sauce pan and cook at medium low. Stir it constantly with a wooden spoon. The mixture should start to thicken and will take about 15 min. Be patient. If you use an instant read thermometer it should read 170F. They way to describe the thickness is that it will coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Not done yet...


Immediately remove from heat still stirring until it cools slightly.

Add the vanilla and strawberry puree. Cover and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Stir in 1 c strawberries at the end of the freezing. Pour into a container and cover and freeze until firm. This really allows the flavors to develop and make it scoopable.

Strawberry Sauce

This is a really simple sauce and only takes a few minutes. Extra sauce tastes great on pancakes, in plain yogurt, on top of cake...whatever you can think of.

1 - 20 ounce bag (570 grams) of frozen unsweetened strawberries or 20 ounces of fresh strawberries
1/4 - 1/3 cup (50 - 65 grams) granulated white sugar, or to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional

If using frozen berries (like I did) let thaw completely. This will take a few hours. In a food processor, pulse the strawberries until smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the sugar. Start with a smaller amount and add more if necessary. This will make about 1 1/4 cups of the sauce.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Zambian Chocolate Chip Cookies

O.k., they're not really Zambian, but since I'm here in Africa, they can be! I actually carried all of the ingredients over here with me because chocolate chips are no where to be found here. This is a new favorite though. I think they baked better here than in my own oven at our apartment!

Here's the recipe, complete with metric measurements for all those Zambian bakers! :-)

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces

1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup(130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
Adjust the oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Make about 20 cookies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

White Chocolate Chip Craisin Cookies

My sister discovered this recipe last Christmas and it has become one of my favorites. I have never been much of a white chocolate fan. I guess I am a dark chocolate snob, but after making these cookies I have completely change my ways and I now love white chocolate. It just hast to be paired with the right ingredients. It goes so well with the pecans and the craisins in these cookies. Instead of white chocolate chips I used a Ghiradelli white chocolate bar chopped up. Something about a large chocolate bar looks pretty to me...I must be weird. This is a great recipe that I encourage you to try.

White Chocolate Chip Craisin Cookies

3 c flour
1 tsp soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 c unsalted butter
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbls vanilla
1c crasins
1 1/2 c white chocolate chips
1 c pecans, chopped (You could substitute another kind)

Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Slowly add the flour mixtures to the cream mixture. Stir until almost incorporated. Add the crasins, white chocolate, and pecans. Mix until everything is just together.

Roll into heaping spoonfuls and bake at 350F. The time varies. I made heaping tablespoonfuls and baked for 11 min. The recipe calls for huge cookies that you bake for 15 min. So you may want to watch the first batch, depending on how large you make them.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

This recipe was tough to come up with, but I think this is the closest I could get to how we make it. We've made it a lot and it had always turned out slightly different until we finally starting paying attention to how much of each ingredient we were putting in. This is one of my favorite sauces and it can be used in different ways. It makes a great lasagna or any baked pasta dish. It is a little time consuming, but you could always make extra and freeze it. I've done that before and it keeps really well and then throwing together lasagna is easy. We chop the ingredients in a food processor to make them really small, almost a puree, but you could certainly make a more rustic dish by chopping the vegetables a little more chunky. We've also experimented this way and it is also great. The vegetables are what give this sauce its flavor and make it one of our favorites.

Bolognese Sauce

1 large white onion
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 lb ground beef
3 cans tomato sauce with no herbs added
3-4 Tbls olive oil
3 Tbls Heavy Whipping Cream
Salt to taste
Freshly grated parmesean
1 lb pasta
In a large saucepan pour about 3 tablespoons olive oil.

In a food processor, or with a food chopper (or more labor intensive with a knife) finely chop the onion, then the carrots, then the celery. They should be very small.

Heat the pan to medium heat and cook the vegetables in the oil to soften. When they become soft and transluscent, add the ground beef and crumble it as you put it in. The meat and vegetables should cook together, add more oil of necessary. Salt the mixture and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through. Don't get the heat too high.

Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 45 min.

Stir in the heavy cream. The sauce will turn orange in color. Salt to taste.

Serve warm over pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. A really good parmesean will add saltiness to the dish, so don't put too much in the sauce.

Note: Good types of pasta for this dish are fettucine, penne, farfalle(bow ties), and rigatoni.
Another Note: I may have to make changes after my husband reads this:)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Very Yummy Guacamole

I absolutely love guacamole and there are always an abundance of deliciously ripe avacados in Bakersfield. I have found a recipe that I love and makes the best quacamole. It's simple and you can spice it up as much as you want. Be careful when dicing the serrano chiles. You may want to put plastic baggies over your hands and DON'T touch your eyes. I like guacamole that is a little chunky so I try not to mash too much.

When trying to find a ripe avacado, choose one that has a little give, but not so much that it mushes. It should be firm, but you can press your finger in and the indentation will stay.

Very Yummy Guacamole
adapted from Simply Recipes

2 ripe avocados
½ red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
A dash of freshly grated black pepper
1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
Cut avacados in half and remove pit. Scoop out flesh with a spoon and place in a bowl.

Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt, garlic powder, and pepper and mash some more. Add the chiles. They vary in hotness so start with a small amount and add to that after tasting. Keep the tomatoes separate until ready to serve.
Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.
Just before serving, add the chopped tomato to the guacamole and mix.
Serves 2-4.

Note: This recipe is just a guideline, really you should just do everything to taste. This is how I like it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Butter Cake

I made this recipe awhile ago, but I've been out of town and not baking. This made a killer strawberry shortcake. It was moist and just dense enough. The recipe would actually make two 9" round cakes or one 9x13" cake, but it was for a small dinner party. I halved the recipe and made one 9" round cake. It is so easy and incredibly delicious and you could do so much with it. I will absolutely make this again.

Butter Cake (From Land-O-Lakes)
3 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 c sugar
1 c butter, softened
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 c milk

Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl and set aside.

Beat sugar and 1 c butter in large bowl at medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until creamy. Add eggs, two at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 tsp vanilla. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture alternately with 1 c milk; beating well after each addition. (End with the flour)

Pour batter into greased 9x13" baking pan. Bake 45-55 min or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely

Note: A 9" cake will bake for 29-34 min. Make sure to grease and flour the 9" round pans or grease and line with parchment. This way they won't stick when you take them out of the pan.