December 27, 2009

Jeanne's Fudge

My mom always did a lot of baking for the holidays when I was growing up. Every year it was the same--peanut brittle, Mrs. Fields' cookies, almond roca.  I loved--and still love--all of it, but I was excited when we would switch holiday treats with the Foremans.

The Foremans, family friends who are actually more like family, always had quite a holiday spread, but the treats that really stick out in my memory are peanut butter blossoms, caramel corn and fudge. Jeanne would do some plain fudge, some with nuts and often some with marshmallows. Yum. So rich and chocolaty! I love the smooth texture and the way it melts in your mouth. When I was thinking about what do make for Christmas this year, I wanted a little variety. I baked some cookies and made some toffee. I needed something to round it all out, so I dug around and found Jeanne's fudge recipe. Perfect. It's nice to know that nowadays I can make it whenever I want! Thank you, Jeanne!

Jeanne's Fudge
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup room temperature butter
  • 1 jar marshmallow creme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 18 oz. chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Butter a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish with deep sides.
  2. Combine sugar and evaporated milk in a very large saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. (Jeanne recommends reading something while you stir. I think this is a great idea, but when I tried it my pot nearly boiled over. So, make sure you also keep an eye on your mixture!)
  3. Add vanilla, butter, marshmallow creme and salt. Mix until melted.
  4. Add chocolate chips and stir until combined. Add nuts, if using, and stir to combine. 
  5. Pour into prepared baking dish and refrigerate. Keep refrigerated until about an hour before serving.  The texture of the chilled fudge is not as satisfying as that of room temperature fudge. But at the same time, fudge that has been sitting out for hours will start to get very soft. 
Note: As you can probably tell from the photo, I did have some trouble getting it out of the dish. I could have needed more butter on the dish. Anyone have other suggestions?

    December 24, 2009

    Cheating Scones

    I like scones but I rarely make them. Yesterday we were invited to a breakfast and I wanted to bring scones. Only problem was the ingredients list, I didn't have all the right stuff. Below you'll see a list of what it called for and then what I did. The result was wonderful! If you don't have just what the recipe calls for you might still get by.


    2 cups flour
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup sugar
    4 Tablespoons butter
    2 Tablespoons shortening
    3/4 cup cream
    1 egg

    2 cups flour
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon course sea salt
    1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 powdered sugar
    4 Tablespoons butter
    3 Tablespoons margarine
    1/2 cup whipping cream from a can topped with 1% milk
    1 egg
    Orange zest and chopped dried cranberries
    I drizzled the finished scones with an orange juice glaze


    Heat oven to 375 degrees.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well and add dried fruit and zest and toss. Cut in butter and shortening. In a separate bowl, combine cream with beaten egg then add to dry ingredients. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a disk. Press out to desired thickness. Cut like a pizza into triangle shapes. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown.

    December 23, 2009

    Spicy Mustard

    For the first 26 and a half years of my life, I never once thought about how mustard was made. It never, ever occurred to me that I could or should make mustard myself. In fact, for the vast majority of my life, I didn't even like mustard.

    But, now that I think about it, I wasn't really exposed to good mustard until recently. There was an abundance of French's yellow mustard at cookouts when I was young--no one brought the equivalent of Sierra Nevada's Porter mustard to those things. Well, like a lot of things I didn't like when I was a kid, I've since discovered that mustard is really quite wonderful. Especially if it is coarsely ground and usually made with beer. And a little spicy.

    The first time I realized that I actually liked mustard was at a local pizza restaurant. I ordered the stromboli which comes served with marinara and a house-made beer mustard. It blew my mind, and I've been into mustard ever since. (Mostly I've been importing a stock of Sierra Nevada mustard to Oregon every time I am near the brewery.)

    Then last summer, I came across a recipe in Gourmet that began, "mustard couldn't be any simpler to make." What?! Why didn't anyone tell me about this?! Paradigm shift. I cut out the recipe and added mustard seeds to my shopping list, where they stayed for the last 4 months. I finally found out that New Seasons carries mustard seeds (yellow and brown) in their bulk spice section. And enough seeds to make this recipe will set you back less than a dollar! I personally find this truly mind blowing and exciting. (But maybe I'm easily impressed...) And there are so many different mustard possibilities!

    Here is my version of the basic recipe. But, be warned, it is quite spicy!

    Spicy Mustard
    • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds (use yellow if you do not want it spicy)
    • 3/8 cup red wine vinegar (I mixed the vinegars to equal 3/4 cup. You could use one or the other.)
    • 3/8 cup distilled white vinegar 
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1. Soak mustard seeds in vinegar and water at room temperature for 2 days. Make sure all seeds are submerged. 
    2. Puree mixture in a food processor with sugar and salt until almost smooth. Thin, if necessary, with water to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt.

    December 22, 2009

    Sweet Braided Breads

    For Christmas everyone I know is getting bread. My little experiment with French Bread led me to a recipe for Sweet Yeasty Bread. They are easy, lovely and SO tasty!

    Braided Sweet Bread
    1 ½ Tb yeast
    1 Tb sugar
    ¼ c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
    1 ¼ c. warm milk (105-115 degrees F)
    2 c. unbleached flour

    2 large eggs
    zest from 1 orange
    2 t. salt
    1/3 c. sugar
    1/4 c. each dried fruits: apricots, raisins, cranberries. Chopped fine.
    2 ½ to 3 c. unbleached flour
    1 ½ sticks butter (3/4 c.) cut into small pieces

    Rich Egg Glaze:
    1 egg
    1 Tb. Milk

    Makes 3 loaves.

    1. Sponge: in mixer using the paddle, combine ingredients, and beat hard until smooth about 1 min. Cover and let rest for about 30 min.
    2. Add eggs, zest, salt, sugar, dried fruits and 1 cup more flour. Beat until smooth. Add butter a few pieces at a time and beat until incorporated.
    3. Change to dough hook. Add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time to form a soft dough. Dough should be very soft but just starting to come away from the side of bowl.
    4. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Kneed until smooth, shiny and soft, about 10 turns. Place in a greased bowl, let rise about 2 hours. Gently deflate, recover and let rise for 12-24 hrs in refrigerator.
    5. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide into 9 equal portions. Roll each section into a strip with your hands and lay 3 strips side by side. Braid the dough and pinch each end to hold together and tuck under. Place on a pan lined with parchment. Cover and let rise until almost doubled. About 40 minutes. It will finish rising in the oven. Preheat oven to 350.
    5. Brush with rich egg glaze. Bake until hollow sounding when tapped, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

    The images above are from my first two loaves. I've since made about 12 more and they are soo much better looking! Also, I added the dried fruit during the braiding step in these. Having them in the dough makes the whole thing much easier and results in a more uniform loaf.

    French Bread

    I decided recently that I would learn how to make French Bread. This can be a lift-long learning challenge and I knew that from the get-go. What I didn't know is that after only 4 batches I've really started to enjoy the process and the results.

    It started with a little online research and reading from a few books on bread. Since I didn't want to invest in anything here is my recipe and directions with ingredient and tools in your home.

    French Bread
    1 ½ Tb. Dry yeast
    1 Tb. Sugar
    2 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
    5-6 c. unbleached flour
    1 Tb salt or more (I like more, up to 2 Tb. but usually 1 1/2 Tb.)
    Cornmeal for sprinkling (or parchment paper, not wax paper)

    Egg Wash:
    1 egg white
    splash of water
    1 t. salt

    1. Create a sponge or pre-ferment with 1 c. water, 1 c. flour, yeast, and sugar. Combine well and let rest for 30 minutes.
    2. In a heavy duty mixer combine 4 c. flour, salt and sponge. Using a dough hook, mix and kneed for about 5 min. Adjust water and flour to create soft, silky, and resilient dough.
    3. Turn onto lightly floured surface and kneed a few more times to create a nice ball. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for about 2 hours.
    4. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and kneed a few more times (about 10-20 turns). Divide into portions for separate loaves. Let rest for a few minutes.
    5. Shape into loaves. And place on a pan that was dusted with corn meal.
    6. Score top, brush with Egg Wash.
    7. Bake for 20-40 minutes at 400. Place a small heat proof baking dish with at least 1 inch of water in the oven on the rack below the bread.

    Here is a helpful link: The Fresh Loaf

    Good visual and pictures here: Artisan Bread Making

    December 17, 2009

    French Onion Soup

    It started with a Dutch oven. Or at least the desire for one. I'd read countless recipes that called for a Dutch oven, but usually by the time I saw those words I'd stop reading since I was not lucky enough to own one. At first, this struck me as a minor inconvenience. But, over the years, the Dutch oven recipes starting adding up. And I know that Amber uses a Dutch oven frequently. Slowly, I came to realization that I, too, needed a Dutch oven. So I kept my eye on them. Every time I went into Sur La Table, I'd check to see if the Le Crueset were on sale. (Or course, even if they were I couldn't afford them. But, they're just so pretty!) I spied a Mario Batali version, cheaper but still a bit much.

    Then my mother gave me a bit of money for my birthday. I thought long and hard about what I wanted. I knew I wanted something to cook with. New measuring cups and spoons? A cast iron skillet? A Silpat? It wasn't enough money for a Le Crueset, but I decided if I could find a bargain on a Dutch oven, that's what I'd get. The deal was sealed when Smitten Kitchen, my favorite food blog, put out a gift list with a Dutch oven at the top. I felt I must have one.

    Randomly, I was at the store a few days later and a found Lodge Color 6 quart Dutch oven for 20% off! It turned out to be only $63! That certainly seemed like a steal, so I picked out a blue one and brought it home. (Thanks, Mom!)

    And then I realized I didn't know what to make. After all of those recipes I'd flipped past or clicked on, I couldn't think of a single thing to cook in my new Dutch oven! So I did what anyone would do these days---I searched the internet. Most of the top searches pulled up camping recipes. Fail. I searched a couple food blogs, to little avail. Where were all of those Dutch oven recipes, now?! A Cook's Illustrated search turned up a few ideas---including a Best French Onion Soup recipe...where the onions alone cook for almost 3 hours! I don't usually have time for such things. But--and this is why I love Cook's Illustrated---they also included a Quicker French Onion Soup recipe. Score! (The secret is microwaving the onions for 20 minutes before browning them.)

    With the help of my friend Libby, I got to do two new things in one day: make French onion soup for the first time and, finally, cook with a Dutch oven. I'd say it was a productive day!

    French Onion Soup
    ~Print Recipe~
    • 6 large yellow onions (around 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4 inch slices (onions sliced this way retain their shape better)
    • Table salt
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
    • 2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
    • 1/2 cup dry sherry
    • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 2 cups beef broth
    • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • Ground black pepper
    • 1 baguette cut into 1/2 inch slices
    • 8 oz. shredded Gruyere cheese
    1. Combine onions and 1 teaspoons salt in a large, microwaveable bowl. Cover completely with a microwaveable plate. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, stir, and microwave for another 10-15 minutes, until onions are soft and wilted. Drain liquid from onions.
    2. When the onions are nearly done, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add wilted onions and cook, stirring frequently and scraping the pot, 15-20 minutes-- until all liquid evaporates and onions are brown. Cook another 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until a dark crust (fond) forms on the bottom of the pan.
    3. Stir in 1/4 cup water and scrape the pot to loosen the crust, then stir and cook until the water evaporates and a dark crust begins to form--another 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat this process (deglazing) another 2 times. Onions should be very dark brown. Add the sherry and stir until it evaporates--about 5 minutes. 
    4. Stir in chicken and beef broth, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Scrape any last browned bits from the pot. Turn heat to high and bring soup to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.
    5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes---until the bread is crisp and golden. Set aside. Turn oven up to broil.
    6. Remove and discard herbs from the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
    7. Adjust oven rack to about 6 inches from broiler. Divide soup among oven safe bowls. Place bread slices on top of soup, without overlapping. Sprinkle each serving generously with grated gruyere. Place bowls on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving. 
    (Serves 4 to 6)

    December 9, 2009

    Blended Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

    This is a recipe from Lauren. The most memorable moment was when she called me from the grocery store asking what blended oats were. These cookies are a very tasty version of oatmeal. Blending the oatmeal in the blender takes away the oatie-chunkiness regular oatmeal cookies have. Plus, they have two types of chocolate, and zero raisins.

    Unfortunately tonight I made them and forgot the flour, for the millionth time this year (I left it out while transcribing the recipe), so my batch was ruined. Tomorrow will be take-two, with the ever helpful flour...

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Cream together
    1 C butter softened
    1 C sugar
    1 C brown sugar

    1 tsp vanilla
    2 eggs

    2 C flour
    2 1/2 C blended-oatmeal (blend in a blender)
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder

    Stir in
    1 chocolate bar, grated (it might be fun to use a flavored chocolate bar, like mint chocolate or chocolate orange)
    2 C chocolate chips (1 package)

    Roll into balls and bake for 10 minutes. They tend to overcook, so ten minutes is usually just right. Cool on racks.

    December 5, 2009

    Kelsey's Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

    A coworker of mine baked these scones and brought them in to work one day a couple of years ago. After tasting one, I demanded the recipe. Ok, I probably asked politely in between mouthfuls, but I was very insistent. I wanted this recipe! I want a lot of recipes, though, and most people do not deliver. But, Kelsey did.

    Kelsey is a pretty amazing person. When I worked with her, she was still in high school, though she always seemed older and more mature. She is definitely the kind of person I would have hung out with when I was in high school--down to Earth and fun. And she bakes! Lucky for me, even though  I am (a tad bit) older than her and we no longer work together, we are still friends these days.

    These scones were the hit of my recent brunch (even though there were pumpkin waffles and banana pecan pancakes). Well, maybe it just seemed like the were the superstars because Mark couldn't get enough of them. He raved about their slightly crunchy exterior and light and fluffy interior to anyone who would listen. These scones are not at all dense like some you might have come across, nor quite as dry. (In fact, in a way they are biscuit-esque.) The orange flavor really comes through and the chocolate chips add just the right amount of sweetness and crunch.
    Thank you for the recipe, Kelsey!

    Orange Chocolate Chip Scones
    ~Print Recipe~
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
    • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular, semi- or bittersweet)
    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet (with either butter or parchment paper).
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender (or two knives in scissor motion) cut in the butter until the mixture resembles course crumbs. 
    3. In a small bowl, stir together eggs, orange juice, vanilla and orange peel. (Side note: does everyone out there have a zester/microplane? They are fantastic! I have this one and I really like it.) 
    4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. The dough will be very sticky. With lightly floured hands, knead in chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed.
    5. Form dough into 8 even portions. Use your hands to shape them into triangles (if you don't mind getting sticky) or just use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to drop them onto the baking sheet. Space evenly as they will rise quite a bit. 
    6. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until scones are golden brown. Remove from sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 
    (Makes 8 scones)

    December 4, 2009

    Sauteed Carrots with Fried Sage

    I don't usually cook carrots. In fact, most of the time I'm more of a raw, fresh vegetable kind of person--something I definitely get from my mom. I would be very satisfied with a big, colorful salad for dinner. Recently, though, I've been discovering the joys of steamed and roasted veggies. Until now, I've mostly stuck to my standbys--broccoli and eggplant. You know, I've just had more than my fair share of overcooked, mushy bland vegetables--especially carrots. Yuck.

    Well, I can't tell you exactly why, but I was flipping through one of the four food magazines I'd acquired well before Thanksgiving and I decided to make this carrot side dish on Turkey Day. Carrots and sage---two ingredients with which I rarely cook. Maybe it was the simplicity of the recipe. Closer to Thanksgiving, I went back to find this recipe and for the life of me could not located it. I flipped through every magazine I had and nothing. I somehow had recycled the one magazine with my side dish recipes! (And, don't get me started on trying to find sage in the days before Thanksgiving--everybody was out!)

    I was lucky enough to find the missing recipe online (though not before searching the Cooking Light website very, very diligently. What is up with their hard to navigate interface?!) and some sage after work on Thanksgiving day. Anyway, it was all smooth sailing from there. I tweaked their instructions a bit and fried the sage in the butter and oil (um, why exactly do they call it Cooking LIGHT?) first, which cooks the sage lightly and also flavors the fats with it's sage-iness. Such savory goodness! The carrots then absorb all of this wonderful flavor and develop their own satisfying sweetness. This would be an excellent side dish anytime.

    Sauteed Carrots with Fried Sage
    • 1 tablespoon butter (use Earth Balance to make this vegan)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) small fresh sage leaves (or larger leaves, torn in half or quarters)
    • 3 heaping cups diagonally sliced carrot
    • 4 tablespoons water
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
    1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan and stir to mix. Stir in sage leaves and fry for 1 minute, or until lightly crisp. Remove leaves, draining excess oil back into the pan, and set aside. 
    2. Add carrots and water to skillet. Stir to coat with oil. Partially cover and cook 10 minutes or until carrots are almost tender.
    3. Add salt and pepper to pan. Increase heat to medium-high heat. Cook 4 minutes or until carrots are tender and lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add sage back in and stir. Serve immediately.
    (Serves 4 as a side dish)