Monday, February 27, 2012

Caramel peanut popcorn

Well the Oscars and have come and gone -  but I still have caramel peanut popcorn in the house.  I had an oscar party last night and in addition to candy and twizzlers I had to make my own caramel peanut popcorn - or as we also refer to it as - Cracker Jacks.  The only thing missing from the popcorn was the plastic toy!  I must confess - it was outrageously delicious.

Caramel Peanut Popcorn
 Makes 8 large servings

1 cup popcorn kernels
8 ounces of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups unsalted peanuts

Line two sheet pans with either silpats or parchment paper lightly sprayed with pam.  Set aside.  Have a large mixing bowl ready.

Pop the popcorn according to your preferred method.  I used an air popper as it cuts down on the amount of fat and oil.

Put butter and sugar in a sauce pan.  Cook until golden brown - about 6 minutes and then add peanuts and cook for an additional two minutes.  Do not burn caramel.

Place popped popcorn into the waiting mixing bowl and pour caramel mixture on top.  Mix with spatula coating all the kernels with the caramel and peanuts. Divide coated popcorn onto the two sheet pans. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Caramel peanut popcorn

Allow popcorn mixture to dry for at least one hour before serving.

Break mixture into pieces and fill popcorn bags for your guests.  

Movie style caramel peanut popcorn

Dim the lights and start the show!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Potato chip shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate

I know - this sounds absolutely crazy.  Potato chips in tender shortbread cookies?  I have been dying to try them and I did today as I was waiting for the installation of my new satellite dish (all the better to watch the Food Channel with!).

Ingredients for cookies

The recipe is quite simple and easy to make.

Potato chip shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate
  Makes 40-50 cookies

1 lb. of butter
1 cup of confectioner's sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 oz bag of sea salt potato chips crushed into bits.
2 cups dark chocolate

Place butter in bowl of mixer and beat until fluffy scrapping down the sides once or twice for a total of 4 minutes.  Add confectioner's sugar and beat on medium speed until pale in color and fluffy.  Add vanilla and incorporate.  Add flour all at once and beat until just incorporated. Scrape down sides.  Add potato chips and beat until well mixed.

Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper (or two quarter sheet pans) and put dough onto sheet pan.  Roll dough on sheet pan into uniform thickness.    Place sheet pan in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake shortbread for 13-15 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges.

Remove pan from the oven and place on cooking rack.  Immediately cut into long pieces.  I used a large pastry bench scraper to cut the cookies.  It works better than a knife because it doesn't tear the shortbread.  Let cookies completely cool before dipping into melted chocolate.

Baked cookies cut into pieces with bench scraper

Melt the chocolate in the microwave starting with 2 minutes and then checking at 15 second intervals.  When the chocolate is melted dip one end of the cookie in the chocolate and place on a wire cookie rack with parchment paper underneath.  Place the rack in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.

Finished cookies dipped in chocolate

Results:  The cookie is very tender and with the addition of the potato chip there is a nice bit of crunch.  The dark chocolate offsets the saltiness of the chips.  The next time that I make the cookies I will smash the chips a bit more as there were large bits of chips in some of the cookies.   But it is definitely a keeper.

If you try this recipe please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winner of the Recipe Lion dessert contest

I am so excited that I won the dessert contest on the blog Recipe Lion.

You can read about it at:  Winner of dessert contest

This is my first contest and my first win and I am very excited that so many people voted for me!

Thank you to all those who helped and voted and voted.

I am off to the kitchen to bake so stay tuned to more delicious recipes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Triple brownie recipe has been entered in a dessert contest

My recent post - Triple chocolate brownies with three different fillings - has been entered in a dessert contest.

Triple chocolate brownies with three fillings

If you would please go to the blog page for Recipe Lion , scroll down to the page to entry number 37 and click on the "Like" button you will be able to vote for me.

I thank you all in advance


Triple chocolate brownies with three different fillings

Super Bowl parties are as much about the food as they are about the game.   When I was invited to a party to watch this year's game I offered to bring dessert and my girlfriend jumped at the offer.

I wanted to try something different - and as I have said my friends are my test kitchen so I tested away.  I made what I am calling - Browniewitchlettes - layered round 4 bite brownies with flavored buttercream filling.  I made three flavors:  meyer lemon buttercream, lime buttercream and caramel buttercream filling.

To begin I made a 1/2 sheet pan of my Triple chocolate brownie recipe (I doubled the recipe).  A 1/2 sheet pan measures 21.5"X15".  There is no need to adjust the baking time as these brownies are thinner than the ones that are made in an 8x8 pan.   If you do not have a 1/2 sheet pan you can use two cookie sheets.  Line the sheet pans with parchement paper with an inch hanging over the sides for easy removal.  Allow the browies to cool completely before cutting and filling.

I used a basic buttercream recipe.

Buttercream Recipe
makes 6 cups 

1 1/2 pounds of unsalted butter
9 cups of sifted powdered sugar. (sift after measuring)

Place butter into a stand mixture with 3 cups of powdered sugar.  Start mixer on low speed until all the sugar is incorporated.  Raise speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes until fluffy.  Slowly add one cup of sugar at a time until all sugar is incorporated.  Beat for an additonal 3 minutes until pale and fluffy.

Divide buttercream into 3 bowls.  For each flavor add 1 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice,  1 1/2 lime juice and 1 1/2 cooled caramel sauce.

Cut cooled brownies into circles using a 2 inch round cutter.  Pipe or spread buttercream on brownies.  Pipe additonal butterncream on the top of the brownies along with some lemon or lime zest or some caramel sauce.  Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Brownies on platters for dessert

Caramel buttercream filled brownies

Lemon buttercream filled brownies

Lime buttercream filled brownies

When I arrived for the party right before kick-off with the platter we immediately placed it on the buffet table.  By half-time there were only crumbs left!  Needless to say they were a huge hit.  You can use any flavor that you want - in addition to the flavors that I used you can use peppermint, rose water, spearmint - experiment.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's sugar and gingerbread cookies

I thought that I would post more photos of the cookies that came out of the kitchen.  These were done for a dinner party that I had in honor of the Grammy's last night.

For all the recipes see the previous post on Valentine's cookies.

Can you taste the love?

Gingerbread cookie with glace icing and sprinkles

Sugar cookie with glace icing

Platter of Valentine's cookies for Grammy dinner party

I served the cookies with my decadent Mexican chocolate pudding and champagne.  Perfect combination. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Day 2012 - can you feel the love?

Imagine getting this basket on Valentine's Day from the one that you love!  Alfee Kaufman and I spent three days baking cookies, dipping in chocolate, drying, wrapping and plotting resulted in this masterpiece.  How many ways can you say I love you?  Geoff - can you feel the love?

Geoff's Valentine's basket

Alfee and I made both sugar and gingerbread cookies in many different heart shapes.  We iced them and then wrote little messages on them.

We made heart shaped red velvet whoppie pies with cream cheese frosting.

We made chocolate covered pretzels for a Valentine's theme.  We used white, red and milk chocolate to achieve this look.

We made my triple chocolate mexican brownie in a 9x14 inch pan so that it was thinner than a normal brownie, cut the pan into one inch squares, wrote Geoff a message and then when we boxed it mixed up the letters so that it became a puzzle.  He managed to figure it out!

We made pink marshmallows, homemade graham crackers in the shapes of "X"'s and "O"'s and little hearts,  dipped them in 70% dark chocolate and then assembled our s'moores.

After making all these things we assembled the basket - here are a few photos of the progression:

You can find the recipe for my Sugar cookie recipe on the blog as well as the recipe for the egg white icing on my blog.  The marshmallow recipe is from Martha Stewart and the graham cracker recipe is from Chef Mom.  The pretzel mold was bought at the local bakery supply store and we used tempured chocolate for them.   I used one of my recipes for the heart shaped whoppie pies.

Have fun reading about this basket.!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Meyer lemon biscotti with white chocolate - for the Super Bowl Party

In 1999 I took a three day biscotti course with Nick Malgieri, the Head of the Pastry Department at the International of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City.  We must have baked 40 different kinds of biscotti.  It was a wonderful experience.

I am going to a Super Bowl on Sunday and of course I am bringing the desserts.  One of the desserts that I am bringing is a variation on one of the recipes that we did during the course.

Meyer lemon biscotti with white chocolate
 adapted from Nick Malgieri
Makes 36 Biscotti

2 large eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup of Meyer lemon juice
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1 tsp pure lemon extract (do not use artificial)
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds

White chocolate glaze
8 ozs. melted white chocolate
1 tsp. clear corn syrup

Ingredients for Biscotti

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchement paper or aluminum foil. (if you use aluminum foil reduce cooking time by 3 minutes)

Whisk the eggs, lemon juice, lemon extract, lemon zest and salt until well incorporated.   Whisk the sugar in.

Whisk in the butter.

Take 2 tbls. of flour and toss the chopped almonds in the flour. (this prevents the almonds from sinking to the bottom)

Combine the flour with the baking powder and stir in the liquid mixture.  Add the chopped nuts.  The dough will be very soft.

Spoon the dough onto the prepared pan in two lods, each about 2 inches wide and the length of the pan.Smooth the sides if necesaary.

Ready for the first baking

Bake the logs of dough for 30 minutes, or until well risen and firm when to the touch.  Cool on the pan to room temperature.

Slice the baked logs diagonally into 1/2 inch slices, using a sharp serrated knife.   Lay on sides (cut side down) and bake up to 15-20 minutes longer.  Biscotti should be a deep golden color.  Remove from the oven and place on a cookie rack for cooling.

Sliced and rebaked biscotti

Melt the chocolate in either a double boiler making sure that the bowl does not come in contact with the water or in the microwave using 15 second intervals.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the melted chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over the biscotti.  Place on a wire cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath it until the chocolate sets.

Place on a platter and serve with either brownies,  chocolate cookies or shortbread cookies.  Store any leftovers in an air tight container.

Platter of biscotti

As I am writing this blog I want to take a moment to thank my son, Justin.  If it were not for the Mac, the Canon digital camera and the Apple TV that he has bought me over the years I wouldn't be writing this blog.  I have the tools to do so and as I write my blog, even at 2 am, I appreciate the thoughtful gifts.  Here's to all the kids in the world that enhance our lives as parents!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meyer Lemon Bars

I was fortunate enough to find Meyer Lemons at the local Costco (that really is a feat considering that I am in Montreal!) and have been trying different recipes using the lemons.

These Meyer Lemon Bars are one of the best I have ever made.  They are the perfect balance between tart and sweet.  They are very easy to make.  I paired them with my Mexican Chocolate Pudding the other night when I had friends over for dinner and there was nothing left but crumbs.

Meyer Lemon Bars
 Makes 20 2 inch squares
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom of a 8X8 square metal pan with aluminum foil.

Ingredients for the Crust
 adapted from Alice Medrich
1 cup of flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp Sugar
1/4 tsp salt
7 tsp melted unsalted butter

Ingredients for Crust

In a medium bowl whisk together the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt.   Stir in the flour and cornstarch using a spatula.  The dough will appear somewhat greasy.  Pat the mixture evenly into the pan.  It is a very thin crust so you will have to really work it into the corners.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Remove from the oven when the crust is done and turn the oven down to 300 degrees.

Ingredients for the Filling
 make while the crust is baking

Ingredients for Meyer Lemon filling
1/2 cup of meyer lemon juice - I used three lemons
the zest from three meyer lemons
3 eggs plus 1 yolk
1 tbsp heavy cream  (or sour cream or greek yogurt)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour

1.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour and sugar together.  Add the eggs and egg yolk and whisk until well combined.  Add the heavy cream, meyer lemon juice and meyer lemon zest.  Whisk until blended.

2.  Pour the mixture over the crust and make sure that you tap the pan to get rid of any air bubbles.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges start to come away from the pan.

3.  Remove from oven and set on a baking rack to cool completely before cutting.  Dust the top with confectioners sugar and cut into 20 squares.

If you cannot find Meyer Lemons than you can use regular lemons but you will need to add a conditional 1/4 cup of sugar to the filling ingredients.  Dessert is 3 points on Weight Watchers.

Meyer Lemon Bar

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Longing for Summer and My Vegetable Garden

As I sit and watch the snow blowing sideways I am thinking about my vegetable garden last year and this years planting to come.  I am lucky to have started planting a completely organic garden 11 years ago.  My mother had had hip replacement surgery and I was staying with my parents for the summer and I had plenty of time on my hands.  We had a 1200 square foot piece of  property that had been fallow for three years.  I had always wanted my own garden - I have pictures of me at three years of age with a hoe at my grandmother Laura's garden at her house in the country.  

Having determined the place I took out a sketch pad and designed an 8 plot garden with a raised center bed for herbs.  The walkway is typically Nantucket - crushed shells.  I planted asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and rasberries that come back every year.  Each year I plant 10 different kinds of lettuces, 12 different kinds of tomatoes, sweet and yellow potatoes, 4 kinds of onions, peppers (both sweet and hot), 5 kinds of squashes, zucchini,  every possible herb you can imagine, melons, fennel, cucumbers, peas and carrots.  The best thing about the garden is walking out with basket and scissors, picking whatever I want to cook and within 30 minutes a meal is on the table.  All the beds are lined with edible marigolds and nasturtum so the colors are amazing.  The difference in the taste is unbelieveable.   There is no cell degradation and the onions never make me tear!

We use only organic soil, fertilizer, bug control and deweed by hand (I cut my nails short for the summer and forgo manicures).

So much grows that I threatened to open a farm stand on the corner of our street - with my mother in charge!!!  But I just share the fruits of my garden with people in the community.  We have nick named it "The Farm" and my father made me a sign for the slated gate on the front of the garden.  Today would have been my father's 88th birthday - missing you Dad!

My Vegetable Garden 
Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Melons from the Farm
Lettuces, Peppers and Zucchini from the Farm

Edible Flowers from the Farm
At the end of the summer I threw a party for Labor Day.  I have two friends that own multiple restaurants in Boston, Ma. and Chappaqua, NY so there was no need to hire a caterer - we were the caterers.

My friend Leslie who owns both the Cafe of Love and the Ladle of Love restaurants in Cappaqua (she ships from LoL) made the most amazing Cobb Salad using many of the ingredients from my garden.   If you make the salad as the recipe calls for you will need an enormous bowl.  You can of course divide the recipe so that you can serve it for four people.

Ingredients for Cobb Salad
 courtesy of Leslie Lampert
Serves 14-18 people

2 Heads of Romaine Lettuce
2 bunches of Arugula
1 bunch of Russian Kale
5 cupfuls of Spring Lettuce Mix
2 Radiccio
3 cups of baby spinach
8 hard boiled eggs
3 cucumbers
2 large red onions
2 fennel bulbs
1 lb. of smoked maple bacon
4 large heirloom tomatoes (red,orange, pink purple)
6 ounces Danish blue cheese
4 cups homemade croutons from sourdough bread or any other rustic bread.

Salad Dressing
2 Shallots
1 Egg Yolk
3 tbls. Honey Mustard
1/4 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 cup Olive oil
1 tbsp. bacon fat
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the bacon on a rack over a baking pan.  Cook in the oven until crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

Cut bread into cubes and cook in olive oil and butter until crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

Wash and dry all the lettuces.  For the kale remove the center rib (which is very tough).  Tear all the lettuces into bit size pieces.  Place in the bottom of the bowl.

Put cold eggs into a pan and cover with ice cold water.  Turn the flame on under the pan and gently bring to a rolling boil.  When the water is at a rolling boil cook for three minutes and then turn off the heat and cover the pan for 15 minutes.  Do not open lid before that time.  The reason that you do the eggs this way is that it prevents the yolk from oxidizing (getting that ring of green around the yolk) and keeps them bright yellow and makes it easier to shell.  Plunge the eggs into cold water and shell.  Cut in half and place ontop of lettuces.

Cut bacon into small pieces.  Place on top of lettuces.

Peel the cucumbers.  Cut in half  lengthwise and spoon out all the seeds.  Cut in half lenthwise again and then cut into thin slices.  Place on top of lettuces.

Peel the onions and slice thinly.  Place on salad.  Do the same with the tomatoes, fennel and blue cheese.

Place the croutons piled high in the center of the salad.  The finished salad should like the picture below.

Pour dressing over the salad right before serving.  Mix thoroughly.   This is great for a large party and I promise there will be nothing left over.   Serve with a crisp Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio and hamburgers or steak from the grill.

Summer - I can almost taste it.

Leslie's Cobb Salad with Ingredient's from "The Farm"