Sunday, November 24, 2013

cranberry sauce with tangerines and cabernet

it's that time of year again.  cranberry time.  every year i make a pot of cranberry sauce.  a big pot.  three bags at a time, minimum.  when the kids (my two girls and my cousin's three boys) were young, we discovered that they would eat the fresh stuff by the bowlful!  as a result, i make at least three bags for thanksgiving and a couple more for christmas.

cranberries blend with so many flavors but i stick to a few that i know will work and the rest depends on what i have handy.  oranges will work but if i have tangerines or clementines, i prefer those.  ruby port is nice but i have used merlot, zinfandel and cabernet all with wonderful results.  apples, sure if i have one or two and i have thrown in a ripe pear before too.  but some things never change; there will always be a cinnamon stick, a vanilla bean and some star anise pods.

don't you love the color?  that is one of my favorite shades of the season.  the recipe is a little like a pot of soup, wing it!  however, i will give you the basic proportions to help you out.

cranberry-tangerine sauce with cabernet
makes about 6-8 cups

3 bags of cranberries
3 cups sugar
2-3 tangerines or clementines (1-2 oranges, if preferred), zest and juice only
1-2 apples, any variety, peeled, cored and diced on the small side 
1 cup cabernet sauvignon (merlot, zinfandel, ruby port or other red wine)
1-2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 vanilla bean scraped, use the pod and seeds
2-3 star anise pods

to make it easier to remove them, put the vanilla pod(the seeds can go in with the rest of the ingredients) and the star anise into a spice/tea ball and hang it from the side of the pot.  place all of the ingredients in a large pot with 3 cups of water and bring it to a gentle boil.  continue to cook until the berries burst and cook down a bit and some of the liquid reduces.  the longer you cook it, the thicker it will be and the less sour the berries will taste.  remove the teaball and drain the liquid back into the pot and discard the vanilla pod and star anise pods and also remove the cinnamon stick, allow it to drain as well.  chill it completely before serving.  this is something that can be made as much as a week in advance so take advantage of that!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

i like big bundts!

pull out the turntable and cue up the sir mix-a-lot...sing a long if you can, "i like big bundts..."  no, i didn't get that wrong.  this is all about the bundts, bundt cakes that is.  november 15 is national bundt day and every year, mary, the food librarian holds a bundt bake-athon.  in honor of the big day, i made a bundt shaped loaf of sweet potato monkey bread.  to see the round up of all the bakers who also baked a bundt in honor of national bundt cake day, click on this link to mary's blog.

believe it or not, i actually used a recipe i found on pinterest.  shockingly, it actually worked!  of course, i made a few changes-had to make it mine.  tinkering with an untested recipe is risky.  generally, i fly by the seat of my pants and this time, i landed nicely.  to see the original recipe, click on this link.

sweet potato monkey bread
serves 10-12

1/2 cup buttermilk milk at room temperature
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted, divided
2/3 cup sweet potato puree
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 2/3-3 1/3 cups bread flour

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

in a large stand mixer with the dough hook, stir buttermilk, yeast and sugar together. let it sit for 5-10 minutes or until it is foamy.  divide the butter, 2 tablespoons and 4 tablespoons.  melt them separately. stir in salt, egg, 2 tablespoons of the butter, sweet potato puree, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, and half the flour and mix. with mixer on, pour in remaining flour a tablespoon or two at a time until dough pulls away from the sides and is tacky but when touched, it doesn’t stick to your hands.  the dough may not need all of the flour, mine came pretty close to the full amount.  place the dough in a greased bowl and let it rise until double, about one hour.

grease a bundt or angel food cake pan with and set aside. punch down dough and place it on the work surface.  cut it into two equal portions.  roll each portion into a long snake, about 18" long and about 1" in diameter.   cut dough into 1" sections and roll each piece into a ball.  in a small bowl, mix the dark brown sugar with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a bowl.  set up an assembly line by placing the bowls of cinnamon sugar and butter next to each other.  dip each piece in butter, then coat it with cinnamon sugar.  place each piece in the pan so that the pan is filled evenly.  sprinkle any leftover butter and cinnamon sugar over the top of the dough in the pan. cover pan with plastic wrap and either refrigerate it over night or let it rise until double, about one hour.

preheat the oven to 350.  bake until the top is nicely browned and the internal temperature of a section of dough (try to avoid the sugary parts) reaches about 200 degrees.  allow it to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, turn it out onto a serving platter and allow it to cool for another 20 minutes or so.  cut into wedges or pull it apart.  keep in mind that when hot out of the oven, the sugary parts are like molten lava!  let it cool before trying to eat it!!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

double chocolate cookies; tuesdays with dorie

this weeks recipe for tuesdays with dorie was a simple one.  actually, that was exactly what i needed, a simple cookie recipe.  a chocolate cookie can do many things and after the craziness of travelling for a week, chocolate cookies were just what i needed.  to make the recipe, pick up a copy of baking with julia by dorie greenspan.

 the recipe uses a pound of chocolate.  twelve ounces of bittersweet chocolate and four ounces of unsweetened chocolate.  the recipe instructs you to melt half of the bittersweet chocolate with the unsweetened chocolate.  the other six ounces of bittersweet chocolate is cut into chunks and stirred into the batter.  since i think there can never be too much chocolate, i went ahead and added an additional six ounces of white chocolate chunks with the bittersweet chunks.

the recipe calls for chilling the dough for at least three hours if not longer.  but before you try to scoop them out, let them soften a bit; chilling makes the dough about as hard as cement.  i used a portion scoop, size 40 which will have a purple handle if you buy it from a restaurant supply.  my yield was almost 4 dozen after adding the extra chocolate.  the recipe states that you will get 24 large cookies and they are "spreaders" but i did not think they spread much at all.  the baking time was accurate; don't go over the 12 minutes or they will not be fudgy.
these cookies are somewhere between a cookie and a brownie making this recipe  worth the pound of chocolate it calls for.  but don't let that stop you from adding extra chunks-white, milk or dark.  they are best when warm so don't hesitate to reheat the leftovers in the oven for a minute or two.  be warned, they are addictive.

generally, i ask people to buy a book but if that is not an option, consider borrowing it from a library or a friend.  however, many of these recipes are up online already and you can find it by searching for "double chocolate cookies baking with julia".

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

pumpernickel loaves: tuesdays with dorie

this weeks challenge was pumpernickel loaves.  the recipe was contributed to the pbs series and the book by lauren groveman and you can find it on her website by following this link.  rye and pumpernickel bread have always been a favorite of mine.  actually, to be honest, i am a huge fan of toast and rye and pumpernickel breads are my favorite breads to toast.  i could literally eat an entire loaf, sliced and toasted and slathered with butter.

the recipe was a bit different from the usual pumpernickel recipes.  sure it called for rye flour and caraway seeds.  it wouldn't be pumpernickel without them.  but this recipe also called for yogurt, espresso powder, unsweetened chocolate and prune lekvar.  because i was curious to try the combination, i followed the ingredient list closely with one exception; i did not have any prune lekvar and did not have time to make it so i used what i had, pumpkin butter.  funny thing is, it was unnoticeable!  i plan to make this bread again but may just use plain pumpkin puree.  to see what the other bakers came up with, visit the tuesdays with dorie page.

the ingredients were not the only unusual feature of the recipe.  once the loaves are shaped, the recipe calls for suspending them in towel slings.

not being a big caraway fan, i did not put any seeds on the outside of the loaf.  it just got the egg white glaze to give it a shine.

now that's some fine bread with butter!

time to step away from the table...

buy a copy of the book, baking with julia by dorie greenspan and bake along with us!