Archive for February, 2012

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza with Arugula Date Salad

February 27, 2012

Am I really about to post a recipe of an apparently very common pizza combination and a salad?   Yup, sure am.  Because, at times like these, tasty recipes trump any recipe that may seem ordinary.  Alas, this is pretty tasty.

It’s so good, in fact, that we made this 4 times last week.  Not once, with some leftovers.  From scratch, four different times.  And I could even have some right now.  Seriously, I have nothing more to say.  Mm!

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza with Arugula Date Salad

Of course I know that you can make a perfectly adequate salad!  Seriously, I do.  I won’t even insult you by writing the salad recipe here, as the title suggests.  I will maybe just nudge you to make a salad of arugula, chopped fresh dates, and shavings of the best parmesan with a balsamic vinaigrette (perhaps consisting of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper).  And then maybe suggest that you eat this served directly on your pizza.  See!  Salad makers, I have such faith in you.

1/2 pizza dough recipe, or store-bought pizza dough

3 onions, sliced thinly

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 pears, sliced thinly (toss in lemon juice to prevent from browning)

4 oz. mozzarella, shredded

1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola

honey or agave nectar, to drizzle

salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a pan.  Add onions, salt them, and sautee, stirring often, over medium heat until browned and caramelized, about 25 minutes.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Roll out pizza dough as thin as possible, about 1/8 inch.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Spread cooled onions all over the dough, up to the edges.  Evenly sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.  Layer the pears evenly over the mozzarella cheese.  Salt and pepper pears, to taste.  Sprinkle the gorgonzola evenly over the pears.  Lightly drizzle top of the pizza with agave or honey.

Bake pizza for about 15-20 minutes, until the edges are browned and crisp.  Slice and serve with arugula date salad.

King Cake

February 16, 2012

I don’t observe Lent.  It’s hard for me to remember when Fat Tuesday is.  I’ve never lived in New Orleans.  I’ve never even been to a Mardi Gras celebration (except for once in 5th grade)!  But did I make a king cake this year?  Um, of course I did.  Will I have a Mardi Gras party?  I’m definitely considering it.

This is what I do, people!  I like to make traditional dishes for holidays I don’t even celebrate just because it’s festive!  I’m willing to take my entire evening to make a scary yeast risen cake dough just so we can have a multi colored sprinkled concoction to eat.  You know, on the Thursday before Mardi Gras.  I will myself to get through these recipes just because it’s…fun!

I also like tradition, you see.  And traditionally there is a fava bean or a plastic baby hidden inside the cake.  Whoever gets that in their piece must throw the party the following year.  This is also fun!  I thought I had fava beans, but I didn’t, and finding a small plastic baby is much more difficult than one can imagine.  So we are bean/baby less in this king cake.  I would be upset about this, but likely I will be throwing the party next year anyway.

King Cake (ever-so-slightly adapted from My New Orleans via The Today Show – because the Today Show is awesome)

I kid.  This cake is really not all that difficult to make.  It’s time consuming, sure, and a bit messy.  But, c’mon, it’s Mardi Gras!  You must make it.

  • 1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110 degrees
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved. Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise, for 1½ hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes. Once it’s doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars
  • 1 fava bean or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking

For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it’s a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar. Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Tuck the fava bean or plastic baby into underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.

White Chocolate Brownie Hearts

February 9, 2012

I really wanted to post something super chocolatey this week.  It’s just the lay of the land around Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate this and chocolate that, and the more indulgent the better.  Not that I have anything against indulgence, let’s not kid ourselves.  But I’m about to tell you something about myself that I never thought I would admit here.

I don’t really like chocolate.

Ah!  Stop!  I don’t mean it!  Well, I don’t mean it completely.  Of course I like chocolate.  But…sparingly.  You know, in different types of cookies, or flavored with other things.  But a deep, dark, totally chocolate dessert?  I would likely pass for something else.  You know, for something fruity!  Or nutty!  Or honey-y!  Don’t hate me.

But if not completely chocolatey, at least make heart-shaped desserts, I say!  Because that’s still festive.  And these lovely brownies are still studded with chocolate.  And flavored with white chocolate, which isn’t chocolate at all, but I’ll throw it out there anyway.  They have balance.  And, hello, they’re hearts.  You’ll love them!

White Chocolate Brownie Hearts (adapted from Bakers One Bowl Brownies)

4 oz. good quality white chocolate

3/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt (to sprinkle on top)

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, in the microwave, melt together the white chocolate and butter in 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until completely melted.  Let cool slightly.  Whisk in eggs and vanilla.  Fold in the flour and 1/2 tsp. salt and mix well until fully incorporated.  Stir in the mini chocolate chips.

Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are turning golden brown and a tester comes out clean.  Cool completely in the pan, on a wire rack.  Lift the aluminum foil out of the pan and using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out the desired shapes.

Homemade Samoas

February 2, 2012

I’m from Pennsylvania, so naturally, I take Groundhog’s Day very seriously (obviously, you know that Punxsutawney Phil is from Pennsylvania).  In elementary school, our teachers would take bets of whether or not we thought the groundhog would see his shadow (we had a 50% chance of being right) and then watch the whole thing unfold on tv.  It was an unspoken rule that you never, ever say that there will be 6 more weeks of winter because who doesn’t want spring?!  But as it more often than not turned out, we would never get the nice weather until the snowed cleared away in April anyway.

But this year, no one’s going to be wrong!  Is anyone else as concerned with this perfectly pleasant, non humid, gorgeous spring time weather that we’ve been getting in the dead of winter?!  As much as it was taboo in elementary school, I’m secretly hoping that the groundhog will catch on and change things back around so seasons can take their course as they are supposed to.  It’s February, people!


But the one truly seasonal, unaffected-by-the-weather event that is occurring is the selling of girl scout cookies.  After a winter like this, I very much appreciate that those girl scouts are dependable and will sell me a box of unassumingly delicious cookies around this time of year.  Things are as they should be.

But, let’s be honest: we have already jolted our bearings of time.  So while waiting for your box of girl scout cookies to arrive, you should just make your own.  I mean, as much as it bothers me that winter has taken a little vacation, it’s hard not to take advantage of this 60 degree weather, and as much as I love to buy my box of cookies every year, the homemade ones are just so so yummy.  So there we go.  Good luck, groundhog.

Homemade Samoas (recipe from Baking Bites)

I’m not gonna lie to you: these are time consuming.  And messy.  But are just so good!  And so worth the time it takes to make them.  I needed to sit afterwards though.  So I encourage that.  Sit outside, even!  The weather’s nice.

Cookies

1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Stir in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla.  The dough should come together into a ball.  Divide the dough in half and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using 1/2 the dough at a time, roll the dough to just over 1/8 inch thickness and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, the end of a wide straw, or a smaller round cookie cutter to cut a smaller center hole (I used the cannoli tubes that I needed for these). Repeat with remaining dough.
3. Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set.
4. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Topping

3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
12-oz chewy caramels
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp cream
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate, divided

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

2. Melt 5 oz. of the chocolate in a double boiler.  Dip the base of each cookie into the melted chocolate and let it dry on a wire rack, chocolate side up.  You can also place them in the refrigerator to set up.

3. While the chocolate on the cookies is setting up, melt the unwrapped caramel candies in a double boiler with the cream and salt.  Heat until it has become a smooth sauce.  Add the toasted coconut and stir well.  Place about a tablespoon of the coconut mixture on top of the cooled cookies (chocolate side down).

4. Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds.  Place in a squeeze bottle or a zip-lock bag.  If using a bag, cut off the corner, and pipe lines on to the coconut side of the cookies.  Let the chocolate set.