Thursday, November 27

BAKE IT: Pesto Focaccia

Cast-Iron is one of the best vessels for baking a nice bread. Because of it's aged seasoning the bread develops a nice crispy crust with a great flavor. Adding a nice pesto into the dough creates a flavorful, but simple to make focaccia.

Full time 1 hour
Serves 4-6

The needs-

2 cup flour
3/4 cup water, 110-115 degrees
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp pesto paste
1/2 tsp sugar 
1/2 tsp salt

For topping:
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
2 tsp pesto paste
1/2 tsp garlic powder

The know-

Preheat oven to 200. Make sure you keep the door closed and turn oven off once fully heated.

Lightly spray a large cast-iron pan with vegetable cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix water with sugar and let the sugar dissolve.

Sprinkle yeast into the surface and let stand 5-10 minutes, it will get all foamy/bubbly.

Add in 1 tsp pesto.

Add in salt, 1 cup flour and mix just until combined.

Add in oil and mix well.

Add in 1/4 cup of flour at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl. This usually only takes 3/4 cup flour.

Pour remaining flour into a flat surface.

Turn dough out onto the floured surface.

Fold the dough 4-5 times, or until it is not sticky anymore. It should be nice and smooth.

Form a ball and roll it out until it is the size of your pan.

Place dough carefully into pan.

Cover with clean kitchen towel and place in oven for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove from oven.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using your fingers, make a few indents in your doughs surface.

While this baked mix together melted butter and pesto.

Brush surface with pesto mixture only coat the surface do not drench it. You will have some leftover, reserve it.

Sprinkle over cheese and garlic.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush with remaining pesto mixture.

Gently turn out onto serving platter and cheers!

Tuesday, November 25

Perfect Peas

Peas, the unsung hero of the dinner table. A classic family vegetable which is often the subject of debate. Here is a sure fire way to get peas off the "no thank you" list and onto the "more peas" list.

Full time: 15 minutes
Serves 4-6

The needs-

1 family size bag frozen peas, 14-16 oz.
1 small shallot, finely diced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chicken broth or stock
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

The know-

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.

Add butter and oil to pan and allow butter to melt.

Add in minced garlic and shallot, cooking 1-2 minutes until garlic begins to golden and shallot becomes soft.

Add all remaining ingredients to pan,

Stirring often allow peas to cook, 5-8 minutes or until fully heated through.

Remove from heat and give a good stir.

Move to serving bowl and cheers!

Sunday, November 23

BAKE IT: Cornish Splits

Cornish splits are traditional and very classic English rolls. Served warm with honey or honey butter, Cornish splits have the flavor of time gone by. These hearty rolls are a great addition to holiday table and make great side dishes for roasted meats.

Full time 1 3/4 hours (include cooling and proofing time)
Makes 9 splits (easily multiples or divides)

The needs-

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup milk, slightly warmed (around 110')
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast (most packets are 2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp salt

The know-

In a mixing bowl pour milk and sprinkle yeast across surface. Let sit 5 minutes to get yeast foaming and activated.

Add in sugar.

In a large mixing combine flour and salt.

Add in butter.

Add in yeast mixture.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until a nice smooth even dough is formed.

Oil a large mixing bowl and place dough in bowl.

Cover with clean tea towel and let proof for 45 minutes.

Once proofed turn dough out onto a lightly newly floured surface.

Butter and grease a 9" square baking pan, set aside.

Shape dough into 9 balls, roughly 3" in size, and place in prepared baking pan.

Allow pan to rest 15 minutes to proof a second time.

Once proofed, heat oven to 425'.

Bake pans for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown in color and rolls have puffed up.

Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Serve slightly warmed. For best flavor split open the top and drizzle melted butter or honey on them.


Thursday, November 20

BAKE IT: Proper English Sponge (Treacle sponge)

Sponge is a traditional English cake. Served alongside custard, ice cream, or fresh whipped cream. Sponge has a light texture and a subtle sweetness which is unique to this style cake. One of is main ingredients* can only be found in markets specializing in UK cuisine or occasionally in the international isle of a grocery store.

Full time 1 1/2 hours (includes cooling time)
Serves 8

The needs-

3 eggs
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 cup golden syrup*
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar (traditional recipe uses golden sugar)
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter cracker crumbs, extremely finely crushed almost dust
1/3 cup milk
13 tbsp butter (a bit less than 2 sticks)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

The know-

Preheat oven to 350' and very lightly spray a 8" round cake pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl whisk together 1/2 of the lemon juice and golden syrup.

If mixture is extremely thick whisk in remaining lemon juice.

Whisk in lemon zest and cracker crumbs.

Pour mixture evenly across bottom of the prepared cake pan.

In a medium mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add in eggs, one at a time.

Add in half of the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add in milk.

Add in remaining flour.

Spoon batter, do not pour, into cake pan. Do not spoon into one spot, spread it around a tad, this will stop the bottom layer from moving around too much.

Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes or until and inserted toothpick comes out clean, when inserted into the middle.

Allow sponge to cool in pan for 30 minutes before serving.


Wednesday, November 19

MAKE IT: Modeling Chocolate

If you are a television food show watcher, you know modeling chocolate is use for a variety of things. From cake toppers, to cupcake garnishes, even a few pop treats with groovy jazzy bits. Modeling chocolate is one of the easiest things to make and holds in your refrigerator for months.

Full time 24 hours (includes 23 hour rest time)
Makes 12 oz. modeling chocolate

The needs-

12oz bag candy melts (Wilton works best)
1/3 cup corn syrup

The know-

In a heavy bottom sauce pot bring 2-3 cups of water to a rapid boil. (or use a double boiler)

In a Pyrex bowl place candy melts and place bowl over boiling water, make sure the bottom does not hit the water.

Melt candy melts until smooth and even in texture, stirring to avoid scorching.

Remove from heat once melted completely and pour in corn syrup.

The chocolate will begin to stiffen, so work with some force and rather quickly to stir these together.

Once fully combined and cooled to the touch, place mixture in a zip-top plastic bag.

Squeeze out excess air, place bag in refrigerator and let sit for a day before using.


Sunday, November 16

BAKE IT: Apple Charlotte

If you are or know someone who is a 'Downton Abbey' fan, than chances are you have witnessed or heard mention of the Apple Charlotte episode. To summarize for those who you are completely confused by this: Mrs. Patmore, head of the kitchen was suffering from failing eyesight and was no longer able to read. When requested to make an apple Charlotte for a visiting household guest, she was hesitant to admit to her inability to read and insisted that she had already made the evenings dessert. Unfortunately the evenings dessert ended up being covered in salt and inedible. It is later commented by Mrs Hughes that apple Charlotte is rather simple, hinting you do not need a recipe, and doesn't need to be sugared.

Mrs Hughes is very correct, apple Charlotte is one of the simplest recipes I have ever made. Although, there are several versions of this recipe out there, I actually prefer one with sugar and a hint of spice.

Full time 1 hour
Serves 8

The needs-

8 slices of bread
8 apples, any type, I use a mixture of green and red
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp all-spice

The know-

Preheat oven to 350' and lightly grease a large pie dish with butter (not included in recipe).

Cut bread in half from corner to corner. To create 16 triangles.

Butter both sides of bread triangles liberally.

Layer 8 triangles on the bottom of prepared dish.

Core and slice 4 apples as thin as you can.

Layer apples over bread and drizzle over half of the lemon juice.

Sprinkle across half of the lemon zest, sugar, and all-spice.

Layer with remaining bread.

Core and slice remaining apples and layer over bread.

Drizzle with remaining juice.

Sprinkle across remaining lemon zest, sugar, and all-spice.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before slicing.


Friday, November 14

BAKE IT/MAKE IT: Harry Potter Pumpkin Pastries

A friend of mine asked me in the last few months if I would consider writing recipes with pop-culture influences. After a little debate, I decided to give it a whirl. Here is the first of many such recipes.

Pumpkin Pastries, based on the Harry Potter series. These tasty treats are eaten throughout the series, but are easily recognized from Harry's original voyage to Hogwarts. These hand held wonders are filled with pumpkin and spice and a whole lot of nice!!!

Full time 2 1/2 hours (includes cooling/setting time)
Makes 64 pastries

The needs-

For filling:
2 eggs
2 cups mashed pumpkin (15 oz can)
1 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves 

For dough:
You will need pie crust dough enough to make the equivalent of 4 9" rounds. If you want to use store bought, this is 2 boxes.
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar

The know-

Preheat oven to 425'.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together eggs, evaporated milk, salt, and all of the spices.

Whisk in sugar.

Whisk in pumpkin.

Pour mixture into a baking dish and bake in oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350' and bake for 45 minutes or until it has become firm to touch in the middle.

Remove from oven and let cool/set for at least 30 minutes before continuing.

Once ready to continue, preheat oven to 350'.

Roll dough out and cut into 2 1/2" round using a biscuit cutter or glass. Keep re-rolling the dough until you have 64 rounds. (If using a store bought you should get 16 out of each dough sheet)

Lay out rounds, 6 at a time.

Fill with approximately 1 tsp of mixture.

Brush milk around edge of round and fold over to seal.

Using a fork press done enough to crimp edges shut, but not cut the dough.

Move to non stick baking sheet.

Continue until all rounds are filled.

Brush remaining milk across tops of pastries.

Dust lightly with sugar.

Cut three tiny vent holes into each pastry.

Bake in oven 15 minutes or until they begin to golden.

Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, November 11

HOW TO: Make Chicken Soup

In the autumn I often make soup. It is great for cooler days, lunches, and occasionally bringing to friends feeling under the weather. I often get asked for my recipe so today I am going to share with you, how to make an easy but delicious chicken soup.

The first thing to know about making chicken soup is time, you need at least two hours to make a really good fully from scratch chicken soup. If you want a short cut, you can use leftover chicken or precooked chicken and save an hour.

1-This recipe takes 2 hours and makes a huge pot of soup.

The second thing to know is flavor, since chicken soup contains very few main ingredients, you need to make the most out of each of them. Unseasoned ingredients will not combine to create a full flavor soup, they will combine to create a bland soup. So start with the best you can!

2-For this recipe, you are going to need-

1 1/2 lb chicken (I am using a half chicken)
12 cups chicken stock low or no sodium
4 cups water
2 cups uncooked small pasta
2 cups diced carrots(1 bunch)
2 cups diced celery(1 bunch)
1/2 cup fine diced onion(1 medium)
2 tbsp butter
1 chicken bouillon cube
Salt and pepper to taste

Now it is time to get started, the first hour is easy. Place chicken into a large pot, season with salt and pepper then fill with water(not included in recipe) enough to just cover over chicken. *For added flavor  you can use a rub on chicken, mine has a BBQ dry rub on it.

Boil chicken, yes boil, uncover for 45-60 minutes or until no pink can been seen when cutting into chicken.

When finished cooking-Drain pot and run chicken under cool water.

For pasta preperation, you can do this while chicken cooks-
In a small pot combine water and bouillon cube, bring to boil. This will be for your pasta. 

When boiling cook pasta according to time on package, by cooking pasta in a seperate pot you will avoid it sucking up all the broth in your soup. By using a bouillon cube, you empart the broth flavor into the pasta.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.

Once chicken is cooked we can begin the actual soup.

In a stock pot, melt butter over medium heat.

Add in onion and allow to cook 5 minutes to soften nicely.

Once onion is softened, add in carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, then pour in 1 cup stock.

Allow stock to come to a boil, stir and allow vegetable to cook 10-15 minutes to begin to soften. Stir occasionally and make sure there is always a tiny bit of liquid in the pot, add some if needed.

While these cook, we can finish the chicken. You need to carefully remove all bones from chicken. I like to place a seperate bowl along side the strainer and pull the chicken off into small bite dize pieces, this ensures no bones are in the piece and move chicken meat into the bowl.

If the chicken is hot to touch, just run cool water over it as you seperate it from the bones. Once it is all seperated put it to the side along with your cooked pasta.

Back to the stock pot, by now vegetables are softened and ready to go.

Add chicken into the pot and stir to incorporate.

Add 4 cups of stock, or just enough to come right to the top of your mixture and let cook 10 minutes without stirring.

Add in 4 cups stock and bring to a boil.

Then reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook 20 minutes or until vegeatables are cooked through.

Add in remaining stock and pasta, increase heat to medium high and cook 10 minutes, this will allow pasta to absorb some broth from the pot.

Check for seasoning, adjust if needed, and you are done, now you just need to serve.