Monday, February 27, 2012

Back From Vacation

Hello! We're back from vacation. This was one of the best, if not the best vacation we've taken. Over the next few weeks, I will share more of our photos and adventures.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Soft Caramels - Club Baked

As you're reading this, Tim and I are on our way to Florida. We're taking our first ever 10 day cruise! Even more awesome, I won this cruise. We attended a wine tasting at our local Hy Vee store last Spring. As we were leaving, there was a drawing to enter. We both looked at each other, shrugging and saying we never win anything but stopped to fill out the entry. Needless to say, I am so glad we did. I won't be stopping by to visit for the next couple of weeks. I am hoping to have some amazing sunsets as well as a recap of the Chef's Table to share with you after we return.

Caramels are one of my favorite candies. The movement towards salted caramels increases my love even more. Salty and sweet together are the best.

According to the Baked Explorations recipe, the caramels should take about 7 minutes to reach the desired temperature. Mine were there in about four minutes, causing me to scramble to warm the cream. When I make these again, I will warm the cream earlier. Otherwise, these were easy to make and came together nicely. I should have added the sea salt a little earlier. I waited until they were too cool and it was hard to get the salt to stick.

Thanks to Teri of The Freshman Cook for choosing a fantastic recipe. You can find the recipe on her blog and see the links to the other Club Baked members caramels here!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pastisio - Secret Recipe Club

Secret Recipe Club took the month of January off. I was glad to see the date for the February reveal was prior to our vacation. We try to plan a vacation to a warm spot every February. Although it's been a much warmer than normal winter this year, we're still looking forward to vacation. This year even more than past years, because I WON this vacation. More about that later.

In case you're not familiar with SRC, here's how it works. Each month you're assigned a blogger, you choose one of his or her recipes, prepare it and keep it a secret until reveal day. This month, I was assigned Let's Try These. I am surprised we haven't "met" before. We've both baked in Cookie Carnival and Martha Stewart's Cupcake Club. Also, we've both been through the Wilton cake decorating courses. Vivian has baked a wedding cake. I'd love to do that one day but it makes me crazy nervous to think about it! I chose one of Vivian's savory recipes since I bake enough sweet recipes in the baking groups I belong to.

The cinnamon adds a great depth of flavor to this tomato based pasta dish. Tim and I enjoyed this dish a lot.

Courtesy of Let's Try These.
2 lean ground beef
6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine (or water if you prefer)
1 pound penne pasta
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk (I used skim)
1 1/2 cups vegetable or beef broth (I used beef)
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat a pan over medium-high heat; add ground meat. Cook until is browned.

Add Four of the minced garlic cloves, the cinnamon, oregano, pepper flakes and a
generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant and spices are
well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sauce and enough wine, or water,
to make a sauce that is suitable to your taste but still not too thin. You will be
layering the sauce as you would for a lasagna so keep in mind that thickness.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, partially covered,
until sauce is thick and richly flavored, about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Microwave milk and broth in a quart measuring cup, cover lightly with plastic wrap
and cook until steamy and hot. How long this takes will depend on your microwave.
Mine only took 4 minutes.
In a medium saucepan; heat butter and remaining 2 cloves minced garlic until garlic
is slightly golden. Whisk in flour until well blended. Pour in hot milk mixture while
whisking vigorously until sauce is smooth and starts to thicken. Stir in 1/2 cup of
the Parmesan cheese and nutmeg; season to taste with salt and pepper. In a separate
bowl, whisk together the two eggs; add a ladle full of the broth mixture to the eggs
and whisk to combine. Add the egg mixture to the remaining broth in the
sauce pan and whisk to fully incorporate.

Add a ladle full of tomato sauce mixture to bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Spread half of the pasta over the the pan and top with remaining tomato mixture;
sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Top with remaining pasta and pour over the top the milk/broth mixture;
cover top with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Cover pan with foil; bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and turn oven to broil.
Watching carefully, broil until tops is spotty brown, 3-5 minutes.
Remove from oven and let stand to set 10-15 minutes. Cut into portions and serve.
Yields: 8 serving

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Salty Caramel Ice Cream

Last week I shared this Lemon Ice Cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream cookbook. For the record, I blogged about this last week but made it a few weeks ago. I didn't want you to think we're eating homemade ice cream every week at our house.

I love the way the book is divided into seasons, with the recipes featuring seasonal ingredients. Although we're in the middle of winter, I couldn't resist trying the Salty Caramel Ice Cream.

Jeni uses the dry burn technique for the caramel. I was a little nervous making it this way. I pictured the smoke detectors going off. Fortunately, I was able to get it off the heat just in time and it turned out perfectly.

I've always made the ice cream base, poured it into a pitcher and chilled it overnight in the fridge. Jeni's technique for chilling is to pour the mix into a gallon bag and chill in a bowl of ice water for about 30 minutes. It works great but it's hard to get all of the mix out of the bag. Especially with this one, you don't want to waste a drop.

Just like the Lemon Ice Cream, the texture is perfect, soft and creamy. I also love how it's still easy to scoop after being in the freezer after several days. The flavor is amazing, just a hint of salt and the perfect deep caramel flavor.

Salty Caramel Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream cheese and salt until smooth; set aside.
3. Mix the heavy cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout; set aside.
4. Fill a large bowl with ice and water to create an ice bath; set aside.
5. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, spread an even layer of sugar over the bottom of the pan. Heat, without stirring, until there is a full layer of melted sugar on the bottom, but still some white unmelted sugar on the top. When the edges start to turn a golden color, gently pull it towards the unmelted sugar with a heatproof spatula to help melt the center. Continue pushing the sugar until it is all melted and evenly amber in color (like an old copper penny).
6. Remove from heat and gradually add the cream mixture to the pan. It will bubble up, so be careful! It’s extremely hot. Stir until well combined, then return pan to heat and add the milk. Bring mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually stir in cornstarch mixture.
7. Bring back to a boil and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 2 minute. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer into cream cheese, whisking until smooth. Add vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the prepared ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as needed, until well chilled, about 30 minutes.
8. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

I am linking this to Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday and Sweet Tooth Friday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lemon Cream Ice Cream

Last week I shared with you the first recipes I tried one of my newest cookbooks, Mozza. In addition to the amazing Mozza cookbook, I received Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

I love homemade ice cream and am always in search of the best recipes. Jeni's book is featured in almost all of the lists for 2011's best cookbooks. I've been making homemade ice cream for years. Jeni's recipes are different than any I've made before. She uses cornstarch for thickening, cream cheese and no eggs.

I had one Meyer Lemon remaining from our trip to California, so I chose Lemon Ice Cream as the first recipe to try. I've read some great reviews of Jeni's ice cream. This ice cream did not disappoint, it was creamy, tart and so smooth! I also felt it kept better in the freezer than any recipe I'd made before. You know how some ice creams freeze way too hard? Not this one, it stays a nice frozen consistency even after a week or so. I can't wait to try another one of Jeni's recipes.

Jeni's Splendid Lemon Cream Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

Lemon Syrup:

2 to 3 lemons

2 tablespoons sugar

Ice Cream Base:

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 1/2 ounce (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

2/3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Zest of 2 lemons (reserved from above)

  1. Prep for the lemon syrup: Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from 2 of the lemons in large strips; reserve. Halve the lemons and squeeze enough juice to make 1/2 cup. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and refrigerate until chilled. This won't be a very thick syrup.

  2. Prep for the ice cream base: Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

  3. Cook: Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes -- watch it closely and stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't boil over. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

  4. Chill: Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

  5. Freeze: Remove the lemon zest. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and turn on the machine. Pour the lemon syrup through the opening in the top of the machine, and continue to spin the ice cream until thick and creamy.

  6. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, about 4 hours.

I am linking this to Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday , Foodie Friday and Sweet Tooth Friday.