Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Toasted Childhood Memories

Ever have those childhood memories and try to recreate them as an adult?  I remember forever ago, my mom would sometimes get cinnamon swirl bread from the local bakery.  It was totally round, so each slice was a circle.  We’d toast it up, top it with butter and enjoy each cinnamony bite.  The outside edge was coated in cinnamon sugar so in the toaster it would get all caramelized… oh I can just taste it.
While this doesn’t have the sugar coating, it’s darn close to what the bakery baked… sadly that bakery is no longer around.  I have wanted to try this recipe for a long time.  Once again – yeast.  Why do I fear it so much?  Well mostly because it often just refuses to rise for me.  Thankfully this time – it decided to behave and worked great.  So great that I had quite a hole in the middle of my loaf!  Be sure to wrap this one up tight…. It needs to be tucked in tight.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
What you need!
1C milk plus 2 Tbsp, divided
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 pkg active dry yeast
3 eggs, divided
1/3C granulated sugar
3 1/2-4C all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3C granulated sugar
1 1/2Tbsp cinnamon

Make it!In a 2-cup measuring cup, heat milk and butter to 115-120 degrees. Sprinkle with yeast, allow to sit for several minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, with paddle attachment, mix together 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 2 eggs. With mixer on low, pour in milk mixture. Switch to the dough hook, add salt and flour. Add additional flour as needed. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl but remain sticky.
Grease your hands and a large bowl well with baking spray or olive oil. Transfer dough to bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 1/2-2 hours or nearly doubled in size.
On a lightly floured surface or a silicone counter mat, roll dough to the wide length of your pan (ex: 10 inches) and approximately 18-22 inches long. Rub with softened butter and sprinkle entire surface with cinnamon and sugar.
Roll as tightly as possible and pinch seams closed. Place dough seam side down in a loaf pan greased with butter or baking spray. Cover and allow to rise for additional 1 1/2-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, beat together 1 egg and 2 Tbsp milk. Brush exposed dough with egg wash. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

See ya Winter! Bring on Spring! .... Please?

If you haven’t heard about our Chicago Spring, it’s probably because some are still calling it Winter.  I have hope – hope that the tulips that are springing up are a true sign that Winter is but a bad snowy memory and that Spring has sprung.  We’ve had some pretty chilly days yet this Spring and what is better on a chilly day?  Warm hot soup or chowder.  This chowder came together easy the night before I served it.  I have a theory that soups are better the next day, so often I’ll make them the night before.  Not only does it make for deeper flavor, it makes dinner easy for the next night, just warm it up and just like that – hot soup!
For added yum – add some green onions on top of the hot soup – gives it an extra oniony zip.

Chicken and Potato Chowder
What you need!

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk, or more, as needed
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Make it!Melt butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in chicken broth and milk, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in potatoes.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 12-15 minutes. Stir in chicken and cheese, a handful at a time, until smooth, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the chowder is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.
Serve immediately or refrigerate and head up another time, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Chocolate to the highest bidder...

Another baking adventure for the dessert auction at church.  This time?  Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes.  These beauties even had a ganache center!  If you are going to go chocolate, go all the way – right?  I will be honest and say I wasn’t totally sure with the idea of coffee in my chocolate cupcake, but I think you’ll agree it turned out pretty well.
The frosting was complicated.  I thought about pulling out my trusty can of frosting, that has always worked well by me in the past… but I’m so glad I didn’t.
This frosting is so rich, but not super sweet.  It’s not bitter like dark chocolate, but it wasn’t sickly sweet like some frostings can be.  It piped on beautifully and I think I’d serve it again… on tuna fish, or broccoli…. Maybe even on brussel sprouts!  Ok… none of that is true… but I would make just the frosting again to serve on a cake or on box mix cupcakes.
So if you aren’t sure on the whole recipe – at least try out the frosting, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

For the Ganache Filling:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

For the Cupcakes:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips)
⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup hot coffee
¾ cup bread flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:
1¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
¾ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces chocolate (milk, semisweet or dark), melted and cooled

1. Make the Ganache Filling: Place the chopped chocolate, heavy cream and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave on high power until the mixture is warm to the touch, 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth, then refrigerate until just barely chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.
2. Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size muffin pan with liners. Place the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.
4. Whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon of ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
6. Make the Frosting: In a food processor, process the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla extract and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 one-second pulses. Frost the cupcakes as desired. The frosted cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Punch Needle Place - a Facebook Page for punchers

This February while I attended the TNNA Nashville Needlework Market, there were two business meetings for vendors and buyers to attend.  Much discussion was had about the future of the shows and changes that were planned.  One of the suggestions was a Facebook page to promote the needlearts.  This got me thinking.  I could create a page for Punch Needle, if one did not already exist.
I was so excited that one of the first things I did after hugging my girl tight and getting the van unpacked, start Punch Needle Place.  I’m so excited that the group is growing!  I’m on a few Yahoo groups and I’ve been spreading the news where I can.  I hope you will join if you are interested in posting pictures and admiring other people’s work.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Am I an experienced or inexperienced kneader?"

Once upon a time we had cable TV.  And by cable TV I mean – real channels, not just something the cable company bundled with our internet service to claim we have cable, but real cable.  We had Food Network.  Sometimes I miss it and sometimes I don’t know when we had time to watch it. :)
One of the chefs we liked was Chef Anne.  Andy really liked her and rooted for her in shows that were competitive.  When he decided to make pasta a week or so ago, his go to recipe?  Chef Anne’s.  He asked his tablet for fresh pasta recipes and there it was!  It had ingredients that we had in the house and he went to town making it.  For Christmas I had asked for a pasta machine.  A hand crank one that mounts to the counter and you roll your way to noodles.  Rusty love this whole process since it somewhat hung over the edge of the counter and he benefited from some raw noodles dropping like manna from heaven.
The pasta was yummy and cooked beautifully.  Can’t wait to try a new shape!  Spaghetti!  Found another attachment at a consignment shop this weekend – can’t wait to make it again.

Chef Anne's All-Purpose Pasta Dough
Recipe courtesy of Anne Burrell

1 pound all-purpose flour
4 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 to 2 tablespoons water or more if needed

Put the flour on a clean dry work surface. Make a hole (this is also called a well) in the center of the flour pile that is about 8 inches wide (bigger is definitely better here). Crack all of the eggs and the yolk into the hole and add the olive oil, salt and water.
Using a fork beat the eggs together with the olive oil, water and salt. Using the fork, begin to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture; be careful not to break the sides of the well or the egg mixture will run all over your board and you will have a big mess! Also, don't worry about the lumps. When enough flour has been incorporated into the egg mixture that it will not run all over the place when the sides of the well are broken, begin to use your hands to really get everything well combined. If the mixture is tight and dry, wet your hands and begin kneading with wet hands. When the mixture has really come together to a homogeneous mixture, THEN you can start kneading.
When kneading it is VERY important to put your body weight into it, get on top of the dough to really stretch it and not to tear the dough. Using the heels of your palms, roll the dough to create a very smooooooth, supple dough. When done the dough should look VERY smooth and feel almost velvety. Kneading will usually take from 8 to 10 minutes for an experienced kneader and 10 to 15 for an inexperienced kneader. Put your body weight into it, you need to knead! This is where the perfect, toothsome texture of your pasta is formed. Get in there and have fun!
When the pasta has been kneaded to the perfect consistency, wrap it in plastic and let rest for at least 1 hour. If using immediately do not refrigerate.
Roll and cut the pasta into desired shape.
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