Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers October Challenge 2010

This challenge was perfect since I have spent the past few weeks at home in Michigan where donuts, apples, and cider are plentiful right now. My dad and I did this challenge together, and the donuts were delicious!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I decided to make the yeast donuts. I did half cinnamon sugar and half with an apple cider glaze. I also filled a few with my mom homemade strawberry jam. Those were messy but delicious!

Yeast Doughnuts:
Preparation time:
Hands on prep time - 25 minutes
Rising time - 1.5 hours total
Cooking time - 12 minutes
Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size
Milk 1.5 cup / 360 ml
Vegetable Shortening 1/3 cup / 80 ml / 70 gm / 2.5 oz (can substitute butter, margarine or lard)
Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon (2 pkgs.) / 22.5 ml / 14 gm / ½ oz
Warm Water 1/3 cup / 80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C)
Eggs, Large, beaten 2
White Granulated Sugar ¼ cup / 60 ml / 55 gm / 2 oz
Table Salt 1.5 teaspoon / 7.5 ml / 9 gm / 1/3 oz
Nutmeg, grated 1 tsp. / 5 ml / 6 gm / ¼ oz
All Purpose Flour 4 2/3 cup / 1,120 ml / 650 gm / 23 oz + extra for dusting surface
Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)
  1. Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
  2. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
  4. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
  5. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
  6. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
  7. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  8. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
  9. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
  11. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (my doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).
  12. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

As you can see, we had three wonderful helpers! ;)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Here, There, and Everywhere!

I apologize for my absence the past few weeks! Life has been nuts-o! It started with my good friend Jessica and I spending 5 glorious days at my favorite place on earth, Walt Disney World!

For those of you that know me, you know I could visit Disney every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it. I am that crazy person who takes multiple trips to Florida each year, and no, I don't have any children. My husband and I just love it! Since both of our husbands are in the midst of crazy Army schools, we thought we'd take a girls trip for a few days. It was a much needed break for both of us. Also, thanks to my fairy godmother as I call her, Jessica and I were able to try out the Segway tour. It was pretty amazing!

Upon returning from Florida, my parents were already here with Andrew waiting when I got home. They spent the holiday weekend and then headed home on Monday. Andrew was off Monday and Tuesday for the holiday so we spent those days just enjoying each other's company and running some errands. For the past two days now, I have been attempting to play catch up with my Master's class, cooking, cleaning, laundry and just about everything else!

I do have a few recipes to share with you though! I didn't try anything too elaborate, but I did try some new recipes.

I am always on a quest for the best pancake recipe I can find. I don't know that I have ever used the same recipe twice when it comes to pancakes. Some people love cookies, I love pancakes! I picked up some blueberries at the store so I figured I'd give the new blueberry cornmeal pancake recipe I found a try. Very good! I thought it was odd to put cornmeal in pancakes, but they were actually good in a different sort of way.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

Prep: 20 minutes Total: 40 minutes

Ingredients for 4-6 servings
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk (Since I didn't have buttermilk I mixed 2T white vinegar into 2 cups of milk)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
melted butter
1 cup fresh blueberries
maple syrup to serve
Whisk first six ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and oil in medium bowl; add to dry ingredients and whisk to blend. Let stand for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200F. Place baking sheet in oven. Preheat griddle or heavy large skillet over medium heat, brush with melted butter. Working in batches, spoon 1/2 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake. Sprinkle each with two tablespoons of blueberries. Cook until golden brown and just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to sheet in oven to keep warm. Serve with maple syrup.

The second recipe I'm sharing is one I made to bring to the USO this weekend. Because it was a holiday, the USO was pretty busy, and the soldiers always really appreciate homemade treats. I also like bringing goodies in there because they don't care how it tastes, they're just happy to have something homemade! ;)
Chocolate Chip and Pretzel Cookies
Adapted from Sugar Cooking
•1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
•1/2 tsp. of salt
•1/4 tsp. of baking soda
•1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
•1/2 cup of tightly packed light brown sugar
•1/3 cup of granulated sugar
•1 egg (beaten)
•1 tsp vanilla extract
•2 cup milk chocolate and white chocolate chips
•1/2 cup broken up pretzel pieces (I used closer to 3/4 cup.)

1.In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2.In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). On low speed, slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract. Beat to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3.Add the flour mixture and beat just until there are no more streaks of flour. Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and preztels. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

4.Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. (I used my Silpat.) Scoop out well rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Leave about 2 inches between each ball. Bake for 10 minutes. If you prefer crispier cookies increase the baking time by 1-2 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August Daring Bakers: Baked Alaska!

I'm a few days late, but I wanted to post about this still because I did complete the challenge on time. The last few weeks have just been a little nuts-o so I'm late posting!

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

Being Syrian, I have been making browned butter for as long as I can remember! When we make hummus, we brown butter and pine nuts in a pan before pouring them over the warm hummis. Delicious! Thankfully, having so much experience browning butter, I had no problem with that part of the challenge. Actually, I found this challenge to be much easier than I expected. I have made quite a bit of ice cream over the summer so that part was easy, and the cake wasn't too hard. The toughest part for me was applying the meringue which wasn't too bad either!

I made the browned butter pound cake and meringue as instructed, but I did substitute the vanilla ice cream for Chocolate-Studded Grand Marnier Ice Cream. To die for! YUM!

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (See “Note” section for cake flour substitution)
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.

2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.


8 large egg whites
½ teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
½ teaspoon (3g) salt
1 cup (220g) sugar

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.

Chocolate-Studded Grand Mariner Ice Cream

2 cups heavy (35%) cream
1 cup milk (any type except skim)
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange-flavoured liqueur
1/2 cup finely chopped orange-flavoured dark chocolate, such as Terry's Chocolate Orange

1. In a large bowl, mix together the cream, milk, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Put the Grand Marnier in a small bowl. Refridgerate both the cream mix and the liqueur until completely chilled, about 1 hour or as long as overnight.

2. Stir the Grand Marnier into the cream mixture then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. When churning is complete, fold in the orange-flavoured chocolate bits.Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until semi-firm, approximately 3 hours.

Assembly Instructions – Baked Alaska

1. Line loaf pan with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.

2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four rectangle to fit the bottom of the loaf pan from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.

3. Make the meringue (see above.)

4. Unwrap the ice cream loaf and invert on top of a cake rectangle. Trim any extra cake if necessary.

5. Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.

6. Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaska on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.


Monday, August 23, 2010

A Little Pillow of Heaven....

Last week, Andrew and I happened to bump into one of the guys, the MSG as I will call him, that Andrew used to work with at Fort Bragg, who just happened to be here at Lost-in-the-Woods for some training. We were thrilled to see a familiar face, and we invited him over for dinner since his wife did not accompany him here. We thought he'd enjoy a home cooked meal instead of something out of the microwave or from a drive thru!

I made some Caprese Chicken, Roasted Garlic Potatoes (amazing!), and some sauteed zucchini and yellow squash. It was a great meal as most of it came from our garden, the farmer's market, or the local farm where we buy most of our meat from. It's amazing what a difference food makes when it's really fresh and raised without loads of hormones and pesticides!

The crowing jewel of the meal with the pavlova I whipped up for dessert. I knew the MSG ate a relatively healthy diet so I thought pavlova would be a nice light change to a typical dessert. I have loads of egg whites in the freezer that I have been waiting to use for some time now. I figured it would be nice and easy to make a pavlova ahead of time and have it waiting in the fridge. I used some of the fresh fruit at the store, and I spread some of the fresh apricot preserves I recently made on top. DELICIOUS!! Good thing Andrew's friends at work love anything he brings in because it will be going to class with him tomorrow! Otherwise, I'll sit here all day picking away at it. Needless to say, this little gem will definitely be going in the keeper box of recipes.

Pavlova with Fresh Fruit
(adapted from Simply...Gluten Free)
8 egg whites
pinch of Kosher salt
2 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla 
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Fresh fruit
1/2 cup apricot preserves

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place silpat mat or parchment paper of baking sheet. Beat egg whites with salt in a large mixing bowl until they start to firm up, about 1 minute. With the mixer going slowly add the sugar and continue to beat until it forms firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.
2. Sift the cornstarch onto the egg whites and add the vinegar and vanilla. Fold lightly with a spatula. Pile the egg white mixture onto the parchment paper in two separate piles and gently smooth the mixture to form a  circle starting from the middle and working out in all directions until you have a round disk.
3. Bake for 1 ½ hours and then turn off the oven and let cool completely in the oven.

4. Beat heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup of sugar until it forms soft peaks. Do not over beat.
5. When the Pavlova is completely cooled, peel off the parchment paper and place one Pavlova on serving platter. Spread whipped cream evenly over the Pavlova, and then brush with 1/4 cup of apricot preserves. Place second Pavlova on top of the first. Spread remaining whipped cream on top. Pile fresh fruit ( I used yellow kiwi, strawberries, and nectarines) on whipped cream, and then brush with remaining apricot preserves.

It's like a little pillow of heaven! So good and not too sweet!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Come Away With Me

This past Wednesday, Andrew and I celebrated three wonderful years of married life. For all of the ups and downs and crazy turns, I definitely wouldn't change a thing. We are so blessed in so many ways, and we have had so many crazy and wonderful experiences over the past several years. We have only grown closer, and I cannot wait to spend my forever with him.

In celebration of our three year anniversary, we got each other traditional gifts of leather. Andrew got a new seat for his road bike, and I got new sunglasses which came with a leather case. We also had an incredible dinner! Before we were married, I worked as an assistant to the community relations coordinator at my alma mater, Grand Valley State University. With this job, I spent a great deal of time workin closely with the catering staff and event planners at the university. Since we were having our reception at the Alumni House, my friend, Kenn, over in catering and I planned every last detail of the menu together. It was to die for! We had so much fun planning all of the courses, and once the wedding day came around, Kenn had some surprises of his own. It is definitely not a meal we will soon forget.

Being the adventerous novice chef that I am, I decided to attempt to recreate our wedding reception meal while taking a few liberties. Our at home recreation looked something like this:

Greek Salad with my Dad's Homemade Dressing

Filet Mignon with a Cherry Glace
Haricots Verts with Herb Butter
Hasselback Potatoes

Almond Layer Cake with Almond Buttercream Frosting

And now the photos and recipes:

Greek Salad

2 cups mixed greens
1 Tomato, sliced
1 Cucumber, thinly sliced or diced
8 Kalamata olives (optional)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Greek Dressing (see recipe below)

1. Place mixed green on two plates. Distribute tomato, cucumber olives, and feta on top of greens.
2. Drizzle each salad with dressing and serve.

Greek Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1-2 garlic cloves, mashed
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together well. Serve on top of mixed greens.

Haricort Verts with Herb Butter
(recipe courtesy of Gourmet)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon (I used dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 lb haricots verts or other green beans, trimmed

Stir together all ingredients except haricots verts with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until combined well.

Cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for 6 quarts water), uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, then drain. Toss with herb butter.

Hasselback potatoes with Herbs de Provence

4 small potatoes

1 clove fresh garlic, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
2 tablespoons sour cream
fresh chives
Kosher salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay each potato on its flattest side. With a potato peeler, peel the skin off the tops of each potato, but leave the bottoms of the skins in tact.
2. Take a sharp knife, and very carefully cut thin slices all along the tops of the potatoes, about two thirds to three quarters of the way down. Be careful not to slice all the way to the bottom. Slide a garlic slice or two into a couple of the slits of each potato.

3. Place potatoes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Rub butter on top of each potatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Herbs de Provence.
4. Bake for 1 hour or until the tops are golden and crispy. Dollop with sour cream, and garnish with chives.

Filet Mignon with Cherry-Balsamic Reduction

2 local raised, grass fed filet mignon
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
Dried Cherry Glace (recipe to follow)

1. Generously season each filet with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Using tongs, place each filet in the pan.
3. Sear steaks for 3-4 minutes of each side (longer if you like it more well done). Let steak rest for 5 minutes prior to serving.

Dried Cherry Glace

2 shallots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, mashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 cup dried cherries

1. Heat olive oil in small saucepan. Add shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
2.  Add chicken stock and simmer until reduced by almost half. Add cherries and balsamic and continue to simmer for 10 minutes or until cherries are plump and sauce has thickened. Pour of steaks, pork or chicken.

Almond Layer Cake
(adapted from Magnolia Bakery's Traditional White Birthday Cake recipe)

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 cup finely ground almond meal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Grease and lightly flour two 9 inch round cake pans. Cut parchment paper into circles to place in the bottom of each cake pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
6. Divide batter among the cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Almond Buttercream Frosting
(adapted from Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe)

1 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft

8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teasponn vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and the vanilla  and almond extracts.
2. Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, until icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency (you may very well not need all of the sugar). Use and store icing at room temperature, as icing will set if chilled. Can store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My friend Beth, the Sandwich Queen!

My friend Beth, who blogs over at This American Wife, has been a lifesaver over the past few weeks on the recipe front. I have been feeling anything but motivated recently when it comes to menu planning, and she passed along some awesome, easy, and delicious recipes. She had a post recently about Yummy Summer Eats, and she said they were delicious so I had to give them a try.

The first night, marinated a pork tenderloin in a Maple Garlic Glaze.

Pork Tenderloin with Maple Garlic Glaze


2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin

1. Combine mustard, sesame oil, garlic, pepper and maple syrup. Place pork in a shallow dish and coat thoroughly with marinade. Cover, then chill in the refrigerator at least eight hours, or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sear tenderloin on all sides in a large, oven-safe skillet. Pour marinade over pork and transfer skillet to oven. Roast for 20 minutes or until pork reaches internal temperature of 145 degrees.

The second night, I made Pork Tortas using the left over tenderloin. DELICIOUS! They were so easy and so good!

Pork Tortas

(adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)
1/2 the Maple Garlic Glazed Pork Tenderloin, sliced thinly
1 (12 oz) baguette, cut in half horizontally
3/4 cup canned pinto beans
1/2 cup refrigerated fresh salsa ( I like Muir Glen Garlic Cilantro)
4 slices Swiss Cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1 large tomato, cut into 8 slices
1/2 ripe peeled avocado, cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
Garlic Aioli (see recipe below)

1. Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 3/4-inch-thick shell. Place bread halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until golden brown.

2. Place beans and salsa in a small bowl; mash with a fork until almost smooth. Spoon bean mixture into the bottom half of baguette. Top with pork and cheese. Place sandwich bottoms back under broiler to melt cheese.

3. Spread garlic aioli on the top half of baguette. Top sandwiches with onion, tomato, jalapeno, avocado and top half of baguette. Cut into 4 pieces. Yield: 4 servings)

Garlic Aioli
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, mashed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients well in a small bowl.
(Sorry I don't have a better photo!)

Nuevo Cubano Sandwiches
(adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)


4 (3-ounce) whole-wheat sub rolls, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 pound thinly sliced reduced-sodium deli ham
1 peeled mango, thinly sliced
1/4 pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1. Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell; reserve torn bread for another use.

2. Combine cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, garlic, and black beans in a medium bowl; mash with a fork or potato masher until almost smooth and spreadable, adding a few drops of water, if necessary. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom halves of the prepared rolls. Layer rolls evenly with ham, mango, and Swiss cheese; replace top halves of rolls.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 sandwiches to pan; place a cast-iron or other heavy skillet on top of sandwiches; press gently. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until sandwiches are golden brown (leave cast-iron skillet on sandwiches while they cook). Remove sandwiches from pan; repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 2 sandwiches.

Thanks, Beth, for the great recipes! You're a lifesaver!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Daring Cooks August Challenge - Pierogis!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Although I have been a Daring Bakers for many months now, this was my first time completing a challenge with the Daring Cooks. Being that I have quite a bit of free time in the kitchen here in Missouri, I thought it would be a good time to try out some new skills.

My first Daring Cooks challenge was sponsored by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. We were to make pierogis with one of two dumpling recipes and a filling(s) of our choosing. Being from the Westside of Grand Rapids, I grew up around many Polish families. One of my dear friends, Amanda, makes pierogis several times a year with her in-laws, and I was so excited to tell her about my venture into her world!

Since this would be my first Daring Cooks challenge, I decided to try quite a few fillings.

Potato and Roasted Garlic

Caramelized Onion and Cabbage

Rum and Orange Juice Grilled Pineapple

Pumpkin with Marshmallows and Maple Syrup

Personally, I wasn't crazy about the sweet pierogis. They weren't sweet enough for me even though I put a Gran Marnier cream sauce over them. I felt that the dough was too overpowering in its lack of flavor and slimey texture.

Dough Recipe
½ cup (125 ml) milk (can be whole milk, 2% or skim milk)
½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream
3 large egg whites
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
3 cups (450 gm) all-purpose flour

1. Mix flour and salt, add other ingredients, and knead dough until you have a smooth dough. (I kneaded this dough quite a bit, and it yielded a nice, pliable dough)
2. On a floured surface roll out fairly thin (1/8” or about 3 millimeters), cut into 2” (5 cm) squares, and fill with 1 tsp filling.

Originally, the dough came together really well for me. It rolled out perfectly and I was able to easily form the individual pierogis. Once I started working with it longer though, I found that the dough would shrink up after I cut into circles, and it really made a mess!
1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.
2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.
3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi - this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

Pierogis waiting to be pan fried!

Caramelized Onion and Cabbage Filling
Potato and Roasted Garlic Filling

Sweet Pierogis with Gran Mariner Cream Sauce

Pineapple Filling