Tuesday, January 27, 2009


For breakfast a few weeks ago I decided I wanted crepes. I love crepes. Especially when they're filled with Nutella, and especially when they're fresh from a street vendor in Paris. I've never made them myself, though I purchased a special crepe pan set from WS back when I worked there (briefly). I got out the set but apparently you have to season the pan, much like a regular cast iron, which I had neither the time or inclination to do. So I used a regular non-stick small skillet, and that worked just fine.

It wasn't as hard to make the crepes as I suspected, though I got better the further along I got. I think it's because the pan became hotter and more uniformly hot the longer I worked. I filled the crepes with a cream cheese/powdered sugar mixture topped with frozen blueberries. I also added some whipped cream in a can to a few. Michael found it to be too sweet but I thought it was rather good.

I froze the remaining crepes and they froze beautifully. A few weeks later I took them out of the freezer and once thawed, I filled them with some deli ham and a bit of cheddar. I microwaved to just melt the cheese. This was a heavenly combination - the sweet and savory. I had to stop myself from eating more than two.
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups milk
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt

My additions:
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnemon

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, melted butter, flour sugar and salt until smooth. Heat a medium-sized skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. Grease pan with a small amount of butter or oil applied with a brush or paper towel (I used butter-flavored Pam). Using a serving spoon or small ladle, spoon about 3 tablespoons crepe batter into hot pan, tilting the pan so that bottom surface is evenly coated. Cook over medium heat, 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Classic Berry Tart

I made this beautiful, delicious berry tart for Christmas lunch at my parents'. It was a big hit and relatively easy to make. My favorite part (as is usually the case) was the crust - so amazing, not only in flavor, but in ease of making it! That was the biggest surprise for me - how easy it was to make the crust. I never make my own pie dough, so I was apprehensive to make this sweet tart crust. But with a food processor, it could not have been easier!

I have to say I wasn't in love with the pastry cream. It served its purpose but was a little bland for me. Next time I'll try Ina's pastry cream to see if that's better, or I'll try one of Dorie's other pastry creams. Overall, though, this was an impressive-looking dessert for a special day - one I hope to make again soon.

Special thanks to by sister-in-law, Shawn, for taking the photo when I forgot my camera.

Classic Berry Tart
Source: Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1.5 cups pastry cream, cooled or chilled
1 9-inch sweet tart shell, fully baked and cooled
2 pints fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or an assortment
1/3 cup red currant jelly mixed with 1 tsp water, for glazing

For the Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn starch, sifted
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
3.5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to boil in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the yolks with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk to temper the yolks. Continue whisking and slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and thoroughly (make sure to get the edges), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1-2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for five minutes then whisk in the butter. Stir until the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl and press plastic wrap to its surface. Refridgerate until ready to use.

For the Sweet Tart Dough:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 Tbsp (9 Tbsp) very cold or frozen unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the four, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - some pieces will be the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk to break it up and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses (about 10 seconds each) until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very sparingly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom (I used a spring form pan). Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the fridge to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking (I froze mine overnight).

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of tin foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. It's not necessary to use weights if you've frozen the crust. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, gently press it down with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch if necessary and remove to a cooling rack (keeping it in the pan). For a fully baked crust, bake for another eight minutes until it's firm and golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To assemble the tart:
Smooth the pastry cream by giving it a couple strong turns of the whisk. Spoon enough cream into the crust to come almost to the rim, then even the surface with a spatula. Lay the berries on the cream, arranging in any pattern that you like.

Bring the jelly and water to a boil in the microwave or stovetop. Working with a pastry brush, dab each berry with a spot of jelly, or glaze the entire surface of the tart. (I didn't do the glaze).

Banana Bundt Cake

I needed a dessert that I could make the day before it would be eaten. One that would be as good, if not better, than the day it was made. Looking through my Dorie Greenspan cookbook I noticed that all of her bundt cakes were better the next day. While she has many delicious looking cakes in this category, I went for this banana bundt cake simply because it had the least number of steps and I already had all of the ingredients.

For those in my family who like banana bread, this turned out very well. Moist, fragrant, quite banana-y. The batter was incredible. However, once baked, it really was just banana bread in a bundt pan. I had hoped that the addition of sour cream would add a tangy twist to it, but I didn't notice its flavor. As I'm no lover of your standard banana bread, I won't be rushing to make this again (my mother-in-law makes it pretty frequently, to satisfy Michael's love of it). Though if he really wants me to make banana bread, this will be my go-to recipe.

Classic Banana Bundt Cake
Source: Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
4 very ripe bananas, mashed (1.5 - 1.75 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (my addition)

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter or spray a 9" or 10" bundt pan (12 cup). If your bundt pan is silicone, there's no need to butter it. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about one minute after each egg. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the bananas. Next, mix in half the dry ingredients (the batter may curdle), all the sour cream and the rest of the dry ingredients. Scrape into the bundt pan and put in the oven (but not on a cookie sheet).

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes - if it's browning too fast, cover with a foil tent. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes then unmold onto a rack to cool to room temperature.

Storing: wrapped airtight, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to five days or in the freezer for up to two months.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Peanut Butter Tart

My mom has a subscription to Martha Stewart Living, and when I'd be in town visiting (back when I lived in Chicago), I'd spend time browsing each issue's recipes. I finally got around to making a recipe that I pulled from the magazine back in 2001. It's a recipe that was never far from my mind; however, I never had a tart pan with a removable bottom, which is what you use to make the tart (though you could probably also use a spring form pan).

I made this peanut butter tart for Christmas and it was delicious. Definitely something I'd make again, though next time I'll make a few changes: I'll let the ganache cool longer so that it doesn't spread when I add the peanut butter filling, and I'll try to think of a way to make my graham cracker crust a little less crumbly. Neither of these issues took away from how delicious and easy the tart was to make, however.

My tart isn't as pretty as Martha's (no surprise there), so take a look at the link to see why I've always wanted to make it!

Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Shawn, for taking the photos when I forgot to bring my camera.

Peanut Butter Tart
Source: Martha Stewart Living, October 2001

10 (4 3/4-by-2 1/2-inch) graham crackers, broken into pieces
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

3 oz best-quality milk chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream

Peanut Butter Filling:
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup heavy cream

Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until fine crumbs are formed. Add butter. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Place crumbs in a tart pan with a removable bottom (I think mine is 11"). Press crumbs up the sides of the pan to form the edge of the tart and then evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place in the refrigerator while making the filling.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Finely chop chocolate, and place in a medium bowl. Place 1/2 cup cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Pour over chopped chocolate, and set aside for five minutes to yield chocolate ganache. Whisk to combine. Set in ice bath until ganache is cool, whisking constantly. Once cool, remove from ice bath, and whisk until ganache is just thick enough to hold its shape; do not overbeat. Spread in the bottom of the prepared crust, and return to the refrigerator until set.

Combine peanut butter, cream cheese, and sweetened condensed milk in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Whip cream to soft peaks. Add whipped cream to peanut butter mixture; whisk to combine.

Spoon mixture into prepared crust; return to the refrigerator for two hours or overnight. Remove tart from refrigerator, and transfer to a serving platter 10 minutes before serving. Add whipped cream and chocolate shavings as desired.

Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplings

Amazing. Not much to look at, but just totally delicious. We had my parents over for dinner on Monday, and since I was off, I had time to make a full dinner (salad, chicken and dumplings, cake). This was the star of the show. Super easy, tender and though its base is canned cream of chicken soup, the addition of other ingredients assures that the soup isn't all you taste. I definitely plan to make again.

A few tips, based on my experience: put the chicken in the crock pot while it's still frozen. Often times the meat I cook in the crock pot gets too chewy, but I think this prevented that from happening (kept the juices inside). Additionally, since this isn't a baked good, I didn't worry about sticking to the precise amounts of liquid, etc. that the recipe suggested. I figured I could add more later if necessary. For instance, the broth didn't fully cover the frozen chicken breasts from the start of the cooking, but I didn't want it to be too thin, so I took my chances and in the end, no extra was needed. Also, I didn't initially have the two cans of soup that the recipe called for (added #2 with the bicuits), so I substituted some sour cream flavored with chicken broth and boullion to add more creaminess and thickness. While I couldn't taste the sour cream, I think it helped to mellow the taste of the canned soup.

My parents, Michael and I all gave this a thumbs up. In fact, I can't wait to make it again!

Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from this recipe at AllRecipes.com
Yield: 6+ servings

4 Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, still frozen
2 Tbsp butter
2 (10.75 oz) Cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 Large container of chicken broth
1 C light sour cream, infused with chicken boullion and broth to slightly thin
1 Onion, diced (I used frozen diced onion)
1 (10 oz) Package refridgerated buscuit dough
Spices of your choosing, to taste (I used cumin, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, pepper and dry mustard)

Place the chicken, butter, soup, sour cream mixture and onions into crock pot, and fill with enough broth to cover (I added roughly half of the amount found in one of those cardboard containers - which wasn't enough to cover). Cover and cook on high for about three and a half hours. Shred chicken and return to crock pot. Flatten individual biscuits, cut once crosswise then into strips, adding them into the pot and stirring to cover with liquid. Cook for about 90 minutes more on high. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Three Layer Pumpkin Pie

Oh blog, it's been a while. I have no excuse other than the past few months being a whirlwind of insanity at the office, and of course, the holidays, which I was barely prepared for. But things are settling down, so it's time I paid you some attention again.

I made this pie for my in laws' house for Thanksgiving. A little late to post, and at this time of year, no one will likely be interested in reading about another pumpin pie, but it was so good that I had to post. It's so good that I'd make this over regular pumpkin pie every year, except that my side of the family is a bit more traditional and would likely want the usual. But this was so good that Michael, a hater of pumpkin pie, had three slices without me having to ask him to try one.

If you like pumpkin pie but find that after a while, the pumpkin is a little overpowering, this is the pie for you. The cream cheese layer mellows it out. The streusal was a nice touch, too.

Three Layer Pumpkin Pie
Source: Dierbergs' Everybody Cooks, September 2008
Serves 8

Prepared crust for one-crust pie
Cream Cheese Layer:
8 oz cream cheese, softened (I use light)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pumpkin Layer:
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
1 cup half and half
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup butter, melted

In larger mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, the 1/3 cup sugar, egg and vanilla at medium speed until well blended. Gently spread into unbaked pie crust. Chill while preparing pumpkin layer.

In large mixing bowl, beat eggs, pumpkin, half and half, 3/4 cup sugar, spice and salt at low speed until well combined. Gently pour over cream cheese layer. Place pie plate on a cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven until center is almost set, about 55-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a work bowl of a food processer with a steel knife blade, combine brown sugar, flour and oats. With machine running, pour melted butter through feed tube; process until mixture resembles course meal, about 15-30 seconds. Sprinkle topping over pie. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least two hours before serving. Store in the fridge.