Archive for June, 2011

Tomato Pesto Crostada

June 29, 2011

Tomatoes! Basil! Corn(meal)!  We can’t get more summer than this, people!  This, my friends, is summer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  It’s nothing less than a splendidly delightful summer tart.  And you already know how much I love my tarts.

Turns out that I also love summer.  So go to the market and get fresh tomatoes and basil and corn(meal)!  And enjoy this outside!  With a cold beverage.  As I’m doing right now.  (Instead of writing a better post, and filling it with pictures instead, making you think that it is actually a long post).  Long live the warm weather.

Tomato Pesto Crostada (adapted from Always With Butter)

For Crust:

1 1/2 cups flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

½ cup greek yogurt

¼ cup oil

Stir together flours, sugar and salt.  Mix in the yogurt and oil until well combined.  If still crumbly, and not coming together, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together.  Form a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let chill for 1 hour.

For Filling:

1 pint cherry tomatoes

¼ cup fresh prepared basil pesto

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. tomato paste

pinch oregano

pinch red pepper flakes

1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk

Pierce all the tomatoes with a fork.  Mix together pesto, olive oil and garlic until well combined.  Add tomatoes and toss.  Salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll out crust until 12-14 inches in diameter.  Move the dough to the parchment paper.  Spread the tomato paste in a circle in the center of the dough, leaving a 1 inch border.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pinch of oregano and pinch of red pepper flakes.  Mound the tomato/pesto mixture onto the tomato paste.  Spread grated parmesan cheese on top.  Fold the border over the filling.  Brush the egg mixture over the folded crust.  Bake until the crust is nicely browned, 30-40 minutes.

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Barley Scones with Strawberry Balsamic Jam

June 16, 2011

Scones are kind of the perfect brunch food.  They fulfill the sweet and carby necessity of any brunch, but they aren’t so high maintenance.  You can whip them up, stick ’em in the oven and focus on the making the mimosas.

People are so quick to judge scones, though.  They’re too dry, or moist, or something to do with not a “tender enough crumb”.  Poor scones.  They are always picked on.  They’re such an easy target.  And they’re almost never invited to a party.  Which is unfortunate when it fulfills such a huge part of any brunch.

But these scones, these scones are the perfect solution.  First, you’re making a homemade jam to fill the inside of the scone, (you’ll get points for impressiveness), which will make the scones incredibly moist.  Second, and here’s the secret, they’re made with barley flour.  Friends, there are a lot of people that do not know what barley flour is supposed to taste like (sweet and nutty, in case you were wondering), and if you happen to mess these scones up, barley flour can easily take the blame.  It is there to take some pressure off the scone, itself.  And let’s be honest, even scones need a break from time to time.

But no one will know that it is exactly the barley flour that makes the scones so perfectly delicate and substantial.  Bake them perfectly, and you have such dreamy scones that they will never be questioned again.

Barley Scones with Strawberry Balsamic Jam

Strawberry Balsamic Jam (slightly adapted from here)

3 cups fresh strawberries, washed and sliced

1 cup sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Heat all of the ingredients over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Mash the strawberries to incorporate into sugar.  Let it continue to cook until it reaches the consistency of a thick honey, about 25 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Place into refrigerator until ready to use.

Barley Scones (recipe from Good to the Grain)

1 cup + 2 tbsp. barley flour

1 cup all purpose flour

¼ cup dark brown sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 stick butter

1 egg

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup strawberry balsamic jam

1 tbsp. melted butter

2 tbsp. turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray.  Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Crumble in the brown sugar until well incorporated into the dry mixture.

Cut butter into ½ inch pieces and rub into the flour mixture until the butter is still pea sized.  Do not overmix.  Mix together the egg and buttermilk.  Pour into the butter mixture until incorporated.  Split dough in half.  Shape both of the pieces into 7 inch discs.  Place one disc down on parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Spread jam on top of the disc, leaving a 1 inch border.  Place the second disc on top of jam and let the dough sink in.  Brush the melted butter on top of the scones.  Sprinkle the sugar on top.  Score the scone disc sandwich into 8 pieces (like a pie).  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the jam is oozing out and the scone is browned.  Take out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes.  Cut completely through the scored scones.

Cake Pops

June 9, 2011

I know that cake pops are all the rage.  They’re all over food blogs, and now coffee shops and bakeries have shown them the love too.  I know they’re pretty and all, but I simply don’t get it.  I don’t understand the appeal.  Is it because it’s a two-bite treat?  Is it because it’s sweeter than a normal cake?  Is it because it’s on a stick?!

But the thing is, these are exactly the reasons why I don’t understand cake pops.  Wouldn’t you just want another cake pop after you eat one just because it’s so small?  Wouldn’t you think that it’s slightly excessive to dip a bite of cake, covered in frosting in melted chocolate and then eat it?  Isn’t using a fork easier??

This is what I figured out: it doesn’t matter!  People like cake pops because they’re just so cool!  It’s just a trend right now and just like in other trends (read: shorts with tights), you gotta just go with it – no explanation necessary.  Not surprisingly, I bit the bullet and made them.  In a big way, I might add.  With the help of my artistic sister, who possesses the patience and aesthetic eye that I will never have, I made a cake pop bouquet!

Oh man, the combinations you can do with this!  You can have any color of white chocolate coating on the rolled ball of cake!  You can try an endless number of cake flavors!  You can decorate the cake pop like animals or vegetables or even minerals!  The bouquet part has so many choices too!  And to top it all off, it just looks pretty.  I may not understand the pops, but I’ve become a believer.

Cake Pops

Like I said, there are about a bazillion different combinations you can use for cake pops.  I made half batches of a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and a pumpkin cake with a buttermilk icing.

The cakes were delicious before they were rolled into pops.  I’m not sure about after because I was just too busy staring at my bouquet.

My sister filled an empty vase with styrofoam blocks so that the pops would sit at different levels.  Then she filled it with colorful candy and then cut flower petals out of origami paper.  She then managed to put a hole right in the center of the flower so it sat right under the cake pop.  Impressive, I know.  I ate the leftover cake while watching her do all of this.

As for making these cakes into pops, refer to Bakerella, who happens to be the Queen of (cake) Pop(s).

Homemade Cannolis

June 2, 2011

As promised, here it is.  Homemade Cannolis.  Real, completely from scratch, everything homemade cannolis.  Let me be honest and say that it didn’t start out this way.  My cousin was celebrating her graduation and she wanted to treat herself to some cannolis.  I, of course, told her that I would make her some.  By “make,” I obviously meant, buy some premade cannoli shells, get some ricotta from the store, whip some sugar in it, fill the premade shells, and ta da: “homemade” cannolis.

But karma, I tell you.  It really comes back to bite you in the butt.  I said homemade, and karma made sure that homemade would happen.  Turns out that no one sells fresh ricotta these days.  (I’m not sure if any of these stores ever sold fresh ricotta, but that’s neither here nor there).  And on top of that, our Italian bakery was out of cannoli shells!  Has that ever happened?!

But no fear.  I turned to the Italian dessert cookbook that my cousin gave me (I think she was giving me a hint long ago to make cannolis), consulted other cannoli recipes,  bought all of the supplies I needed and got to work.

Let me start by saying that this was maybe one of the most delectable things to have every come out of my kitchen.  But, this is also time consuming.  And you need special equipment to make them.  But goodness, was I ever proud!  I mean, they’re so so delicious, which is why it was so gratifying.  And against the odds!  I overcame many obstacles to make these!  Pushing it?  Maybe.  But it’s all so tasty and worth it.  Good call, karma.

Homemade Cannolis

If you don’t feel like going out to buying your own cannoli equipment, you should buy the cannoli shells (after hoping that your local Italian bakery is not out), but don’t cheat yourself out of this filling.  It’s that good.  But if you do decide to go the completely homemade route, this is what cannoli forms look like.

Homemade Ricotta (recipe from 101 Cookbooks)

1/2 gallon whole milk

1/2 quart whole milk buttermilk

Coat the bottom of a large heavy-bottom pot with cold water.  Combine both milks in the pot.  Place over medium high heat.  Stir to make sure that it doesn’t set on the bottom.  While the milks are heating, place a very thin piece of cloth, or several layers of cheese cloth, on a large colander.  Place the colander over a pot.  As the milk heats, the curds will begin to separate.  Continue to stir and heat until the separated water is almost clear.  Take off heat and pour through the cloth, catching all of the curds.  Let it drain for several minutes until most of the water has come out.  Take both ends of the cloth and tie it on a faucet to let the remaining water drip out.  Take out of the cloth and place into a tight-fitted container.  Place into refrigerator until ready to use.

Ricotta Filling (adapted from Gale Gand)

2 cups fresh ricotta

2/3 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Whip everything except chocolate chips in a food processor until smooth.  Fold in chocolate chips and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Cannoli Shells (adapted from The Italian Dish)

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cold butter

1 tablespoon distilled vinegar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Blend the dough in an electric mixer with dough hook attachment for about 10 minutes on medium low speed.  Take out and knead to form a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let it chill for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take cannoli forms and grease with oil or cooking spray.

Take dough out and roll, using flour as needed, until it is at thin as possible: 1/8 inch thick or thinner.  Cut out round shapes, using a biscuit cutter or a glass.  Carefully wrap the shapes around the prepared cones until the ends meet.  Press the ends down.

Place the forms on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the form starts pulling away from the dough and it is lightly browned.  Using oven mitts, pick up the forms and gently slide the cannoli shell off.  Set on a baking rack to cool completely.

To Assemble: Pipe prepared cannoli cream into the prepared shell.  Dip both ends into mini chocolate chips.