Archive for June, 2014

Smokey Cheddar Crackers

June 26, 2014

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I made these crackers a little while ago now.  I didn’t like them.  Not exactly because of the recipe, but because I didn’t follow instructions.  The recipe called for Parmesan.  I had a really old block that was so, so hard, it wouldn’t grate.  But waste, I would not do!  So I cubed it instead, and threw them in my cracker dough.  Hard, chewy pieces of Parmesan cheese, nestled inside a flaky cracker, is not the most welcome surprise.  They were not good, people.  And it was my fault.

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It was that memory that was preventing me from posting.  But this was an easy fix!  Use fresh cheese!  In fact, this should be your mantra whenever you’re cooking with cheese, so this advice is fully applicable to all cheese-worthy recipes.  You’re welcome.

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I made these again, with a newly-bought fresh block of parm, and they were great.  Perhaps a great addition to your summer picnic spread, eh?  Perhaps a great addition to your afternoon snack?  Perhaps you should make these!

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Smoky Cheddar Crackers (adapted from Serious Eats)

The truth is that I didn’t like these partly because of the recipe.  I thought that there was way too much smoked paprika, making these crackers almost bitter.  I reduced it, by a lot, and like them better, by a lot.  Also, because of the amount of cheese involved, there is very little, if any, salt needed.  The original recipe suggested sprinkling the crackers with smoked sea salt before baking.  This was over-the-top salty for me.  I tried it without and it much more fit my steeze.  Feel free to do it if you like that salty bite.

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 oz. Parmesan, grated

3 oz. sharp Cheddar, grated

1 cup all purpose flour

1.5 tsp. smoked paprika

ground black pepper, to taste

Work in both cheeses into the butter, until fully incorporated.  Add flour, smoked paprika and black butter and stir together with a wooden spoon until the dough is completely uniform.

Chill for one hour.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take dough out of refrigerator.  Scoop out tablespoon size balls and flatten into a disc, about 1/8 inch in thickness.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Continue until all the dough has been used.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the crackers have crisped and are starting to turn brown around the edges.  Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

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Salted Caramel Baked French Toast

June 12, 2014

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Oh, hey there!  Remember me?  I apologize for having disappeared on you for a couple weeks!  Was I on vacation?  Nope.  Was I just super busy?  No, not really.  Did I do absolutely nothing, including posting on my blog because I became super lazy in the two weeks post-finals?  Yeaaah, that’s it.

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I was a lethargic, sitting on my couch, watching nothing but bad (but, I mean, so good!) reality television, ordering only take-out, did not even buy milk, social butterfly for the first week after I finished up the semester.  It was pretty sad.  But I was a social, brunch-making, enjoying the lovely weather, flower-picking, meadow frolicking, non-downer for the second week!  And now I feel like the time has come to share.

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This recipe is every bit as decadent as it is practical.  It is all do-ahead work, which is perfect when you may be hosting a brunch.  It also can be adapted in a variety of different ways.  Don’t want salted caramel?  That’s weird…but just fine!  Bake without the caramel on the bottom, and serve with maple syrup, instead.  Want to add chocolate chips to this already extra-rich dish?  Go crazy and layer them in the bread before soaking, and enjoy!  Before going on a juice cleanse, because you may need one.

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But it’s the salted caramel, and the marscapone, and the extra salted caramel marscapone sauce that makes this so over-the-top, and worthy of a rooftop brunch on a warm, lovely, pre-summer day.  Add a mango mimosa or two, and you’ll be declared the brunch host for life.  No more time to take time off!

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Salted Caramel Baked French Toast (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

3/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 loaf challah bread (cut into 1/2 inch thick slices)
7 large eggs
3/4 cup marscapone cheese, divided (1/4 cup for custard, 1/2 cup for serving)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. table salt
salted caramel marscapone, to serve (recipe below)

The night before serving:

Place 3/4 cup sugar, butter and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed, pot, over medium heat.  Allow the butter to melt completely, and the sugar to start dissolving.  Stir with a wooden spoon, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches a deep amber color.  Add the cream, which will splatter and bubble up, and mix until the cream is well incorporated.  Pour the caramel into the baking vessel, a 9-10 inch pie plate, or gratin dish.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to harden the caramel.

To make the custard, beat together eggs, 1/4 cup marscapone, milk, remaining 1 tbsp sugar, vanilla and salt, until everything is all uniform.  Arrange the bread on top of the caramel, making sure that all of caramel is covered.  Carefully pour the custard on top of the bread.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill overnight.  Place a plate on top of the baking dish to ensure that all of the bread if properly soaked.

The next morning:

Take out french toast 1.5 hours before baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the top if golden, and the bread seems moist, but there is no liquid left.  You can invert it by running a knife around the edges and (while wearing oven mitts!), inverting the baking dish onto a plate.  Or you can scoop it out and serve with extra marscapone and salted caramel marscapone sauce on top.  Decisions, decisions.

Salted Caramel Marscapone Sauce (slightly adapted from Milk and Honey)

You can make this the day before, or while the french toast is baking.  If you make it the day before, microwave it for 20 seconds and stir vigorously until the caramel becomes uniform again.  It will separate in the refrigerator.

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. water
4 tbsp. butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 heaping tbsp. marscapone cheese
1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt

Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pot, and stir together.  Place over medium heat and do not stir.  Let it come to a boil and bubble, as it turns golden and amber colored.  When it is dark enough, take it off the heat and whisk in butter and salt.  After they are fully incorporated, add marscapone and whisk until uniform.